Given my affection for Canadian Westerns, Donald Sutherland, and obscure ’70s dramas with Native American themes, it pains me to report that the only film featuring all three things is almost completely uninteresting. Originally titled Alien Thunder and wisely renamed for American release, Dan Candy’s Law follows easygoing Mountie Dan Candy (Sutherland) as he tracks a fugitive Cree Indian called Almighty Voice (Gordon Tootoosis) across the vast, wintry landscapes of the Saskatchewan province circa the late 1800s. Almighty Voice’s original crime was slaughtering a government-owned cow to feed his family, but then he killed Candy’s partner (Kevin McCarthy) during an attempted arrest, and fled in fear with his pregnant wife. Director-cinematographer Claude Fournier shoots the Canadian wilderness well, capturing the harsh majesty of untamed open spaces, and he’s aided greatly by Georges Delerue’s plaintive score. But the film’s script is useless, an endless string of perfunctory scenes in which Candy treks across Canada while he talks about doing things that are more interesting than anything he actually does. We also see vignettes of Almighty Voice and his extended family living off the land while avoiding capture, but the movie never properly develops the theme of Native people trying to reclaim some measure of their lost sovereignty. Toward the end of the picture, Sutherland briefly tries to do some sort of unhinged-avenger thing, but his attempt is undercut by hapless direction; the broad tonal shifts in Sutherland’s performance from anger to exuberance seem forced instead of natural, because it’s never clear whether Candy is driven by decency or vengeance. Tootoosis and Chief Dan George lead an ensemble of Native supporting players, and though all of them add authenticity, none gets to do anything viewers haven’t seen in a zillion similar films. The pace of Dan Candy’s Law picks up briefly during the requisite bleak finale, but since the film hasn’t built up an emotional head of steam, the denouement feels arbitrary instead of powerful.
Dan Candy’s Law: LAME