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Sunchaser-Theatrical Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Dan Chapman[1]
Directed byMichael Cimino
Produced byArnon Milchan
Michael Cimino
Larry Spiegel
Judy Goldstein
Joseph S. Vecchio
Written byCharles Leavitt
Music byMaurice Jarre
CinematographyDouglas Milsome
Edited byJoe D'Augustine
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • May 29, 1996 (1996-05-29) (France)
  • September 27, 1996 (1996-09-27) (U.S.)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$31 million
Box office$21,508 (Domestic)[2]

Sunchaser (titled on-screen as The Sunchaser) is a 1996 film directed by Michael Cimino and starring Woody Harrelson, Jon Seda and Anne Bancroft. It was director Cimino's last feature-length film.

Plot summary[edit]

"Blue" Monroe (played by Seda) is a 16-year-old juvenile offender (convicted of murdering an abusive stepfather) who is dying of abdominal cancer. Dr. Michael Reynolds (played by Harrelson) is Blue's materialistic, self-absorbed oncologist.

During a medical visit, Blue, who is half Navajo, discovers that he has only one or two months to live and decides to escape. He kidnaps Dr. Reynolds and forces him to drive to Arizona, to visit a mountain lake sacred to the Navajo people. The trip forces both to confront their sense of self and life choices.



Mickey Rourke, a collaborator and friend of Cimino's, believes the director “snapped” sometime during the making of The Sunchaser. “Michael is the sort of person that if you take away his money he short-circuits,” Rourke says. “He is a man of honor.” Rourke did not say how or why Cimino “snapped.”[3]

Joe D’Augustine, the film's editor, recalls his first meeting with Cimino: “It was kind of eerie, freaky. I was led into this dark editing room with black velvet curtains and there was this guy hunched over. They bring me into, like, his chamber, as if he was the Pope. Everyone was speaking in hushed tones. He had something covering his face, a handkerchief. He kept his face covered. And nobody was allowed to take his picture [...] Welcome to Ciminoville.”[3]


A theatrical release was intended, but the film fared poorly enough with test audiences to go straight to video in the United States.[4] The film was entered into competition at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palme D'Or.[5][a 1]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received largely negative reviews. Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "Michael Cimino's return to filmmaking after a six-year layoff is a conceptually bold tale marked, in its execution, both by visceral intensity and dramatic sloppiness."[7] Jo-Ann Pittman wrote in Film Directors that Sunchaser had "a predictable and often laughable script. Not good considering it is a drama. The characters are stereotypical and the story again lacks direction. It attempts to handle too many stories at one time. The New Age mystical healing waters are cliche as is the kidnapper/victim story."[8] Leonard Maltin gave the film one and a half stars: "Misbegotten mess tries to touch all trendy bases, scrambling American Indian mysticism, 'New Age' theories and buddy-movie clichés into the format of a road movie."[9]

Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times gave Sunchaser one of its few positive notices. While noting the predictability of the script, Thomas added, "Yet all that's so familiar in Charles Leavitt's script has been given a fresh, brisk spin by the sheer audacity and force of Cimino's style and by an incisive, wide-ranging performance by Harrelson..."[10]


  1. ^ The Cast and Filmmakers section of The Deer Hunter 2006 DVD incorrectly states that Sunchaser won the 1996 Palme d'Or.[6]


  1. ^ "Sunchaser Poster". IMP Awards. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  2. ^ "The Sunchaser". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  3. ^ a b Garbarino, Steve (March 2002). "Michael Cimino's Final Cut". Vanity Fair (499): pp. 232-235+250-252. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  4. ^ Armstrong, Derek. "The Sunchaser review" Archived 2012-09-04 at All Movie Guide. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Sunchaser". 1996. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
  6. ^ The Deer Hunter: Bonus Materials: Cast and Filmmakers: Directed by Michael Cimino. [DVD; Disc 1/1; Page 4/5]. Universal Pictures. 2006.
  7. ^ McCarthy, Todd (May 20, 1996). "The Sunchaser". Variety. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  8. ^ Pittman, Jo Ann (September 21, 1999). "Michael Cimino". Film Directors.
  9. ^ Maltin, Leonard (August 2008). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (2009 ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Group. p. 1341. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9.
  10. ^ Thomas, Kevin (October 25, 1996). "'Sunchaser' Leaves Beaten Path in Its Quest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-05-14.

Further reading[edit]

  • Camy, Gerard. "Sunchaser." Jeune cinéma n238 Summer (1996)
  • Troubiana, Serge. "Loin d'Hollywood." Cahiers du cinéma n503 Jun (1996) [on The Sunchaser]
  • Saada, Nicolas and Serge Troubiana. "Entretien avec Michael Cimino." Cahiers du cinéma n503 Jun (1996)
  • Cieutat, Michel. "Sunchaser." Positif n425/426 Jul/Aug (1996)
  • Ciment, Michel and Laurent Vachaud. "Un film optimiste et plein d'espoir." Positif n425/426 Jul/Aug (1996) [on The Sunchaser]
  • Feeney, F.X. "Between Heaven and Hell." People 46.20 (1996) [Interview]
  • Kemp, Philip. "The Sunchaser." Sight & Sound 7 Jan (1997)

External links[edit]

See also[edit]