Wind River

Actor-turned-screenwriter Sheridan, who penned the scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water, makes his mainstream directorial debut with another exploration into the gray areas of American law enforcement. I say "mainstream" because Sheridan previously helmed a 2011 horror cheapie called Vile, which apparently lived up to its title. With an Oscar nod for Hell or High Water now under his belt, the guy's come a long way in six years.

Wind River takes its early cues from Tony Hillerman – a girl is found dead on an Indian reservation in snowbound Wyoming; a motley crew of crimefighters investigates – then evolves into the mixture of tense violence and character development that characterized Sheridan's two previous screenplays. If Wind River doesn't quite stand up to Sicario or Hell or High Water, it's because Sheridan, as director, lacks Denis Villeneuve's artistry and David Mackenzie's restraint. His reliance on overdramatic sound effects and voiceover bears the mark of an amateur, and there's a few too many shots of people riding around on snowmobiles. However, he does deliver the suspense when it matters, and coaxes fine performances out of his cast, chiefly Jeremy Renner as an introspective if monologue-prone Fish and Game officer. (Fellow Avenger Elizabeth Olsen is good as a neophyte FBI agent, though she isn't given as much to work with.)

Despite a thrilling third act, Wind River doesn't add up to a whole lot. But it does offer a thoughtful, non-exploitative look at reservation life, and I admire Sheridan's sustained interest in the world of rural cops. It's a good old-fashioned movie for grownups. I do recommend it, if not strongly.