Skins Review

The trials and tribulations of Native Americans and their "Warsaw" ghetto reservation lands are tough subjects to interpret for both a filmmaker and viewing audience. The fertile grounds of social injustices, governmental mockery, human indecency, and the slow erosion of community heritage are tackled in Native American Chris Eyre's well-intentioned but underexposed sophomore feature, Skins.

The film focuses on two Sioux brothers living on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation - one of the largest pieces of land granted by the government for "re-settlement" of Native American tribes. Rudy (Eric Schweig) is the local arm of the reservation's law enforcement and spends the better part of his night shifts rounding up drunken Indians and breaking up domestic disputes on the reservation. His brother Mogie (Graham Greene, looking like a beached whale) is one of the reservation's infamous drunks, due in part to a stint in Vietnam and the typical, abusive father.

When Rudy happens upon a brutal killing of one of the reservation's well-mannered teenage boys, he becomes frustrated by the impassionate feelings of the FBI men in charge of the homicide investigation. He takes the law into his own hands, donning black shoe polish to play vigilante and find the boy's killers. And when Rudy happens upon a new report documenting the expansion of white-owned liquor stores in nearby Nebraska, he takes matters into his own hands with a can of gasoline and a book of matches. Then, in a bit of trivial plot twisting, he ends up sending his drunken brother Mogie to the hospital with massive burns; he was inside the liquor store stealing bottles of booze.

The film ultimately switches gears, loses the vigilante angle, and delves headlong into a tedious and exhaustive "Hallmark card" exploration of family bonds and hereditary responsibilities. For example, we are treated to flashbacks of Mogie and Rudy's rough and tumble antics as children. The rest becomes as predictable as a mid-morning soap opera.

Chris Eyre - the director of the excellent Native American flick Smoke Signals - runs aground in attempting to mix together a social commentary and a heady character study of two brothers on polar ends of existence. Eyre intercuts actual news footage with the fictional material, giving a docudrama feeling to the production that brings into sharper focus the plight of reservation inhabitants living in the inevitable cycles of poverty, alcoholism, and rage at the world.

Ultimately, though, the film is dragged down by the exhaustive antics of Graham Greene hamming up the role of the drunken brother Mogie. I haven't seen this much pork up on the silver screen since Mickey Rourke in Barfly. Greene's sincerity in the slow evolution from drunken loser to contemplative man is notable but falls flat given the conventionality of the film's plot.

Eric Schweig - a veteran character actor seen in The Last of the Mohicans and Squanto: A Warrior's Tale - pulls off a decent performance of pained expressions and long sighs of frustration at the state of both his internal and external family conflicts. But his character never ventures into introspection that would have provided a more rounded main character. His vigilantism and adultery with a local married woman never come to fruition and only serve as distractions.

Skins ultimately falls short in properly illustrating the hardships and tribulations of Native Americans in the current political arena. The film makes strong arguments regarding the social status of America's indigenous people, but really only exists to try to eke out an emotional tug of the heart, one which it fails to get.

The Skins DVD adds a staid commentary from Eyre and the typical short featurette about the making of the film.

Graham like pie!!!


Facts and Figures

Run time: 46 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 25th January 2007

Box Office Worldwide: $249.2 thousand

Production compaines: First Look Pictures, Starz! Encore Entertainment

Reviews 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Mogie Yellow Lodge, as Rudy Yellow Lodge, as Verdell Weasel Tail, as Herbie Yellow Lodge, as Aunt Helen, as Stella, as Teen Mogie, as Teen Rudy, Joseph American Horse as Panhandler, Wilda Asimont as Neighbor, Chief Dave Beautiful Bald Eagle as Old Soldier, as Medical Examiner, Robert A. Bennett as Officer Comes Running, as Sonny Yellow Lodge, Joe Black Elk as Drill Team Member #1, as Cop, Tokala Clifford as Black Lodge Boy