Back in 2013, Johnny Depp got a lot of grief for his portrayal of Tonto in THE LONE RANGER. There were many cries of it being inappropriate to have a white actor playing a Native American character. Yet there was a film from fifteen years prior in which he also plays a Native American character that was worse and more insulting than Tonto could dream of being, yet no one batted an eye.
Because no one saw it. At least, very few in America.
I’m talking about his directorial debut, THE BRAVE (1997).
Based on a novel by Gregory McDonald novel of the same name, THE BRAVE centers around a broke, drunk Native American man who makes a pact to star in a snuff film so his family can have $50,000. It seems like a great way to provide for them, since he feels useless alive. He’s given the money and a week to spend with his family to say goodbye. Knowing how little time he has left he spends extra quality time with the family, which leads him to regret his decision. He can’t go back on the deal, lest he put his family at risk. Rather than invest wisely so they’ll at least be taken care of after his death, he throws a big party for the tribe. Then he goes off to make the movie. The end.
Seems like it could be a great short film. But at over two hours, it’s torturous. There’s many extended scenes of Depp staring off, feeling big, deep emotions. At least half the movie is him staring off because…emotions. When there is action, it’s Depp acting out the worst of the Native American stereotypes–constantly drunk, not very bright, but gollygoshdarn, he has a big heart.
Despite being nominated for two awards at the Cannes Film Festival, it never saw a US release either in the theater or in home media. Some reports say that Depp was so angry at the bad reviews from American critics that he refused to let the movie play here, while others say he refused American distribution because he feared “being badgered” by the companies. It can be seen on imported DVDs if morbid curiosity gets the best of you..but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
From what I understand, McDonald’s source novel is actually pretty good. I haven’t read it because the movie turned me off so bad I haven’t wanted to revisit that story. Ever.
QUESTION OF THE NIGHT–What is the absolute worst movie you have ever seen?