John Sayles is considered by many to be one of the strongest voices of the American independent film movement. His decidedly schizophrenic résumé runs the gamut from cheekily scripted monster films to leisurely paced character melodramas like Lone Star.
Silver City, a lopsided left-wing polemic and farce, divides the audience down the middle, based on political persuasion. It starts off promisingly enough, with bold opening credits and a funny introduction to the central villain, a Colorado politician who reels in the corpse of an illegal alien while filming a lakeside TV spot for his governor campaign. Chris Cooper’s portrayal of the shamelessly named Dickie Pilager is such an explicit and over-the-top mockery of our president that it barely makes sense when characters in the film later make overlapping references to the actual Dubya Bush.
Danny O’Brien (Danny Huston) is a hapless private investigator brought in by Pilager’s adviser (Richard Dreyfuss) to investigate the potentially scandalous discovery, after it’s decided that one of Dickie’s enemies may have deliberately placed the corpse. Pilager’s enemies include his sister Maddy (Daryl Hannah), underground conspiracy theorist Mitch Paine (Tim Roth), and radical talk radio host Cliff Castleton (Miguel Ferrer).
As O’Brien sinks deeper into the maelstrom of suspicion surrounding the dead migrant worker and Pilager’s interest in Silver City, a condemned mining village, the film begins to crawl at a snail’s pace. Sayles is trying too hard, and his concerns, which range from the exploitation of Mexican refugees to toxic waste dumping, clash with what is essentially a character study. There’s simply too much going on. While the all-star cast is phenomenally good (especially Huston as an eminently likable patsy, and the never-sexier Hannah, as a communist), the dialogue comes off stilted and stiff more often than not. Silver City’s occasional incomprehensibility almost works in its favor, as it underscores the frustration of the outnumbered and outvoted protagonists.
The film’s final shot of fish floating to Silver City Lake’s surface is heartbreaking, however much it may smack of knee-jerk environmentalism. When the credits begin to roll, and Steve Earle’s “Amerika Version 6.0” blasts over them, even left-wingers may have had enough of Sayles’ preaching, but Silver City is nonetheless recommended to anyone who likes their movies both passionate and opinionated.
Showing at the Maple Art Theatre, 4135 W. Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills. Call 248-263-2111 for more info.
Gene Gregorits writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.