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WHITE SANDS. Directed by Roger Donaldson; written by Daniel Pyne; produced by William Sackheim and Scott Rudin for Warner Bros. Starring Willem Dafoe, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Mickey Rourke. Rated R.


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White Sands looks good, but doesn't make a lot of sense.

I don't mind occasional logical lapses in slick mystery/thrillers. (There were a few in a previous picture of director Donaldson's— No Way Out —that didn't bother me at all). But White Sands just goes too far.

Its story is 'way too complicated, for one thing. With plots within plots within plots, it's so hard to keep everything straight that eventually it's just not worth the effort.

Despite its fine cast, though, the movie's major problems are with its characters.

The main character, rural deputy sheriff Ray Dolezal (Defoe) is an appealing enough guy. But he's full of too many contradictions. He's an honest cop (which we're made to believe is quite a rarity) and some thing of a hick, but is somehow able to bluff his way into a sophisticated FBI sting operation.

Dafoe handles the two different aspects of Ray's personality quite well, separately, but doesn't connect them very smoothly; it's hard to believe they're supposed to belong to the same person.

Mastrantonio's character has the same schizophrenic problem. She's either a risk addicted heiress comfortable consorting with gun-runners and gangsters or she's a "poor little rich girl" type who needs a good steady guy to settle her down. But we're expected to believe she's both, and it just doesn't work.

That leaves the third member of the traditional triangle (you know—good guy/bad guy/girl). Rourke plays a shadowy gangster figure who's like the guy in the old joke/paradox, the one who says "everything I tell you is a lie."

An accomplished player of seedy, slimy types, Rourke makes this guy, ironically, the one really believable character in the movie.

May 20, 1992

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