Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Dead Man (Home Entertainment Review)

3 min read


Once upon a time, was an actor. Hard to imagine now of course

's Dead Man casts Depp as an unlucky man, hoping that his fortunes will change by moving from Cleveland to Machine. A town described by a man on the train (Crispin Glover) as ‘the end of the line'.

A prescient observation. No sooner is Depp's William Blake there, but the job he travelled under the promise of no longer seems to exist, and the woman (Mili Avital) who takes a shine to him has apparently already promised herself to another man (Gabriel Byrne). The two men kill each other, kind of. Byrne's Charlie dies instantly, while Blake begins a new life as a dead man walking. Attracting bullets and conflict wherever he goes but seemingly unable to finally die.


During his Odyssey across the remote regions of the American West, he meets an indigenous American man named Nobody (Gary Farmer), who nurses his wounds and decides that William Blake is -that- William Blake. Both men seem to live between worlds, Blake between life and death, and Nobody between cultures, neither of them are accepted and both are outsiders. They form a friendship, and work together to travel to their final destinations, despite bounty hunters and other dangers at every step.

What Dead Man is on paper, and what it is on screen are two different things. It boasts a huge cast, aside from those already mentioned there's also , , Michael Wincott, , Robert Mitcham, Billy Bob Thornton and . The score is provided by , who compliments the stunning black and white images with vague but charged electric guitar tones in between some more acoustic melodies.

There is a strange quality to it. Not the bombastic adventure you expect from a so much as a surreal vision quest. An anti-western that presents a peek at the guy standing behind John Wayne, slightly out of focus who probably gets shot without anyone noticing in the second act. The pacing tends toward glacial, and the visuals seem to choose to focus on the mundane rather than the majestic.


That said, there is something fascinating about it. Like so many Jarmusch films, the stories he chooses to tell are difficult to pin down or describe in any typical way. It certainly isn't a film for everyone.

The new Blu-ray release from Criterion includes an excellent selection of bonus features, which are ultimately enough to increase the worthiness of the disc itself. They add explanation and humour to the perplexing main feature. In particular a Q&A session with Jarmusch, who answers questions from not just members of the public but celebrities like Bill Hader, who asks earnestly if he can be in one of his films. Jarmusch is typically cagey about his answer. Regarding the film itself, Jarmusch seems to know as much as the rest of us regarding what it's about, or what he was trying to say.

Perhaps it's better that way.

Dead Man is released into the on June 13th.

Director-Approved Special Edition Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Jim Jarmusch, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
  • New Q&A in which Jarmusch responds to questions sent in by fans
  • Rarely seen footage of Neil Young composing and performing the film's score
  • New interview with actor Gary Farmer
  • New readings of William Blake poems by members of the cast, including Mili Avital, Alfred Molina, and Iggy Pop
  • New selected-scene audio commentary by production designer Bob Ziembicki and sound mixer Drew Kunin
  • Deleted scenes
  • Jarmusch's location scouting photos
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: Essays by film critic Amy Taubin and music journalist Ben RatliffNew cover by Nessim Higson