The specter of vigilantism stalks the Pine Ridge reservation in Chris Eyre’s uneven but involving melodrama about family dysfunction and social injustice. Rudy (Eric Schweig) is a local sheriff fed up with watching his people get drunk and kick the shit out of each other, and so, prompted by spirits and a hit on the head, he decides to exceed his legal authority. He may also be motivated by the sight of his Vietnam-vet older brother, Mogie (Graham Greene), drinking himself to death, or by flashbacks to seeing his loaded dad beat on his mother.
Whatever Rudy’s reasons, he only makes matters worse in a world of squalor, despair, and oppression that’s captured by Eyre with an eye for pathos and wry humor. More of the latter would be welcome, as it was in Eyre’s engagingly absurd 1998 first feature, Smoke Signals, especially since Green and Schweig are in top form as their beleaguered but undefeated characters balance laughter and tears. The film is more powerful as a personal drama than as a political tract, and its dénouement might seem dubious to some a year after September 11. (87 minutes)