Picks and Pans Review: Skinwalkers
"Come on, Joe, you'll solve it," says the detective's wife. "It'll be a little dull until you do, but..."
Uh-oh, she let it slip. Though the principal performances are creditable and the Southwest atmosphere is refreshingly different, this Mystery! version of Tony Hillerman's 1986 novel does drag a bit.
Executive-produced by Robert Redford and scripted by his son James, Skinwalkers is the first made-in-America entry in the 22-year history of the PBS series. The two-hour movie follows Lt. Joe Leaphorn (Wes Studi) and Officer Jim Chee (Adam Beach) of the Navajo Tribal Police as they try to learn why medicine men are turning up dead on the reservation. Could the killer be a "skin-walker" capable of changing form from human to animal? Leaphorn, logical and professional, disdains the idea. Chee, himself a traditional healer, isn't ruling it out.
Studi is especially effective as a veteran urban cop reluctantly getting back to his Navajo roots at the urging of his warmhearted wife (Sheila Tousey). For his sake, pardon the film for dawdling over cultural details en route to a somewhat improbable conclusion.
BOTTOM LINE: Slow but steady