Running Time: 101 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Directed by Roger Donaldson (COCKTAIL, SPECIES, THIRTEEN DAYS). Starring Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (SCARFACE, THE ABYSS), M. Emmet Walsh (BLOOD SIMPLE, STRAIGHT TIME), John P. Ryan (CLASS OF 1999, FATAL BEAUTY, THE COTTON CLUB), Miguel Sandoval (JURASSIC PARK, REPO MAN), Maura Tierney (ER, SCOTLAND PA), Royce D. Applegate (Rev. Brocklehurst on TWIN PEAKS, UNDER SIEGE 2), and cameos by Mimi Rogers (WEDLOCK, THE RAPTURE) and (failed presidential candidate) Fred Dalton Thompson.
Tag-line: "The most dangerous way to solve a murder... become the victim."
Best one-liner: "I've never met anyone like you...you're honest...even when you're lying."
WHITE SANDS is a mediocre conspiracy thriller in the mold of countless others, but it remains watchable because it's packed to the gills with talented and eclectic performers. Frequently, it's a complete rip-off of the underrated, underseen FLASHPOINT (1984): from the Tangerine Dream-y score to the desert discovery of a mysterious body with a shitload of cash to Kurtwood Smith's monologue about how sedition, chaos, and crime are the lifeblood of the government (here delivered by Mickey Rourke)- it's really quite shameless. Regardless, Willem Dafoe plays a cop whose suburban New Mexican existence is so insipid that he decides to impersonate the dead man on a whim, kind of just to see what happens.
Dafoe, as directed by Roger Donaldson (COCKTAIL, SPECIES) is pretty restrained, but there are a few fantastic moments which creep through- mainly Dafoe's childlike excitement at going undercover. There's a whirlwind of excitable eyebrow action, and his cheerful naïveté ("I can be a Bob!") is truly something to behold.
This is the most exciting moment of his life. But the tables soon turn- he becomes a victim of clothes-slashing lesbians:
Willem Dafoe: brutalized by lesbians.
John P. Ryan: once again, underappreciated. See also: my review of FATAL BEAUTY.
Hold on to your butts
and begins a whirling dance of death (on eggshells) with enigmatic malfeasant Rourke (who is always compelling, even when phoning it in- as is proved here):
Mickey Rourke: smug, because he thinks he just swindled the producers for a paycheck by 'phoning it in,' when in reality, he couldn't help but deliver an intricate, multi-faceted performance.
We've got some 90's neo-noir action with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio ("You're not the kind of woman I'd expect to see in a rodeo." –"I'm not the kind of woman you'd expect." GROAAAAN); a healthy dollop of skeezy n' sleazy
M. Emmet Walsh in a bolo tie (is there any other kind?); and bit parts for everyone from Maura Tierney to Miguel Sandoval:
'Why does everyone forget that I was in JURASSIC PARK?'
to that guy (Royce P. Applegate) from the DIFF'RENT STROKES kidnapping episode ("I will kill your parents, Sam"). They even manage to work in a Dafoe shower scene which lends credence to my theory that Dafoe might actually be naked more often than Keitel.