The Dark Wind is a good-looking version of Tony Hillerman’s 1982 cult policier that goes for the same slow burn. Lou Diamond Phillips toplines strongly as the Navajo flatfoot.
Corkscrew plot, set on an Arizona reservation divided between Navajo and Hopi, warms up gradually with the discovery of a Navajo corpse with its palms and soles flayed. Then the cop, on tedious night watch by a disputed water-windmill, finds a crashed airplane with two dead coke smugglers on board.
Story fans out as the feds turn up. Phillips is warned off the case by his superior (Fred Ward), and the main smuggler’s young widow (Jane Loranger) comes looking for justice. All the locals, including store owner John Karlen, act mighty suspicious.
Despite the fact that most of the action is purely police procedure, the combination of Phillips’ mystical voiceovers, Michel Colombier’s atmospheric score and Stefan Czapsky’s striking lensing of the ruddy mesa landscape keeps the mood taut.