A lethal contemporary game of Cowboys and Indians is played out in this revisionist western whose thesis is that, deep down, old hatreds never die. British director Franc Roddam comes down firmly on the side of the Native Americans in this downbeat action pic.
Opening scene is the aftermath of a massacre that took place 100 years ago: a camera pan, following runaway horses, brings us, without a cut, to present-day Montana and a small town with a large Indian population. The (white) Mayor has planned, as a Labor Day tourist attraction, a re-enactment of that old battle; but racial hatreds run deep, and a drunken white boy shoots and kills an Indian youth whose pals quickly avenge him. Pic then develops into a manhunt as five Indian youths take off on horseback.
It’s to the credit of Roddam, and the late screenwriter Spencer Eastman (to whom the pic is dedicated), that the present-day world of the West’s Indians is so thoughtfully and seriously presented. Yet despite its interesting depiction of modern Indian life, War Party is basically just another pursuit movie, no better or worse than the average. Billy Worth and Kevin Dillon impress as the two young Indian leaders.