On the hundredth year anniversary of a battle between the U.S. Calvary and the Blackfeet Indians, the residents of small Montana town decide to reenact the battle and hopefully bring in some tourist dollars. The white mayor (Bill McKinny) and the sheriff (Jerry Hardin) both think that it is a great idea. Even the local Indian leader, Ben Cowkiller (Dennis Banks, in real-life a founder and leader of the American Indian Movement), thinks that it will be a worthwhile for the Indians to participate. The Calvary’s guns will be full of blanks. The Indians will play dead. However, as the result of a bar brawl the previous night, one of the local rednecks, Calvin Morrisey (Kevyn Major Howard), shows up with a gun full of bullets. After he shoots one of the Indians, Calvin ends up with a tomahawk buried in his head. Three Indian teenagers, Warren (Tim Sampson), Skitty (Kevin Dillon), and Sonny (Billy Wirth), flee into the wilderness. Thirsty for revenge, a white posse heads off in pursuit.
War Party is an underrated and surprisingly violent movie. Franc Roddam brings the same sensitivity to his portrayal of alienated Indians that he brought to portraying alienated Mods in Quadrophenia. Though, at first, Kevin Dillon seems miscast as an Indian, he, Wirth, and Sampson all give good performances, as does Dennis Banks. The movie is often stolen by M. Emmett Walsh and Rodney A. Grant, playing renowned trackers who are brought in to help the posse chase down the three youths. That Grant’s character is a member of the Crow adds a whole extra layer of meaning to his role. Even though the setup often feels contrived and heavy-handed and anyone watching should be able to easily guess how the movie is going to end, War Party still packs a punch.