White Sands (film)

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White Sands
White sands ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoger Donaldson
Produced by
Written byDaniel Pyne
Music byPatrick O'Hearn
CinematographyPeter Menzies Jr.
Edited byNicholas Beauman
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • April 24, 1992 (1992-04-24)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$9 million[1]

White Sands is a 1992 crime film directed by Roger Donaldson and written by Daniel Pyne for Warner Bros. Starring Willem Dafoe, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Samuel L. Jackson and Mickey Rourke, the film is about a U.S. southwestern small-town sheriff who finds a body in the desert with a suitcase and $500,000. He impersonates the man and stumbles into an FBI investigation.


Ray Dolezal, a bored Torrance County, New Mexico Deputy Sheriff, investigates an apparent suicide in the desert. Alongside the body is a suitcase containing $500,000. During the autopsy, they find a digested piece of paper with a phone number; Dolezal, posing as Spencer, calls the number and goes to a meeting, where he is robbed and instructed to meet Gorman Lennox at a restaurant. FBI agent Greg Meeker intercepts Dolezal and informs him that Spencer was an undercover agent. Now that Dolezal has lost the money, Meeker suggests he continue posing as Spencer to recover the money or help arrest Lennox.

Dolezal meets Lennox and his wealthy associate Lane Bodine and learns the money is for illegal arms to fund left-wing freedom fighters in South America. The arms dealers demo the guns for Dolezal and Lennox, but demand an additional $250,000 due to unforeseen expenses; Meeker, unwilling to provide more money, pushes the responsibility on Dolezal, who romances his way into Lane's life so she will attract rich humanitarian donors to fund the deal. Two FBI internal affairs agents hunt for Dolezal, believing he killed Spencer and took the money. Dolezal is forced to admit to Lane he is not really Spencer, but she agrees to help raise the money because she finds Dolezal a better alternative to Lennox.

Dolezal learns from Noreen, who had an affair with the real Spencer, that he was working with an FBI agent who likely killed him. Noreen runs away at the sight of Meeker and the internal affairs agents grab Dolezal. Lennox runs the agents off the road; Dolezal flees and returns to Lane. He discovers Noreen dead and a Polaroid of her with Spencer and Meeker.

Dolezal breaks into a surveillance van outside Lane's house and beats up the FBI agent. He accuses Meeker of killing Spencer and Noreen. Meeker admits he procured the $500,000 without authorization to steal it and capture Lennox, but Spencer lost his nerve and backed out; Meeker confronted him out in the desert and talked him into shooting himself. He taunts Dolezal that the Polaroid proves nothing, and no one will believe his word against that of a minority agent with a spotless record.

Lennox confronts Dolezal and reveals the two internal affairs agents tied up in the trunk of his car. They drive out into the desert, where Lennox says he knows Dolezal is not Spencer, because Lennox is really a CIA agent who wants the arms deal to ensure the survival of the military-industrial complex. Lennox kills the two agents and informs Dolezal that he also kidnapped Lane. Dolezal must find where she hid the $250,000 and meet Lennox on a deserted military base in the White Sands desert.

Dolezal uncovers the money in a briefcase buried in Lane's horse's stall. He kidnaps Meeker, takes him out to the White Sands base, and handcuffs him to a pipe inside an abandoned building. Dolezal explains that Lennox is CIA, the FBI will be arriving soon, and Meeker can either face punishment or try to flee. Dolezal leaves a gun behind, so that with some effort Meeker is able to grab it and hide behind a bathroom stall.

Lennox arrives and reveals that Lane is down the road at the base entrance. Dolezal placed the briefcase in the abandoned building, but when Lennox walks in, Meeker shoots and kills him. After disabling Lennox's car, Dolezal picks up Lane. He drops her off at her estate and explains that needs to return to his family. He hands her the $250,000 she had obtained through her pseudo-fund raising event.

A small army of FBI arrive in cars and helicopters. Meeker breaks the pipe he was cuffed to and runs through the White Sands desert with the briefcase. Dolezal left the original $500,000 he was originally suspected of stealing so the FBI will stop investigating him, but one of the agents notices footprints going out into the White Sands and so they head off in pursuit. As the FBI catches up with him, Meeker stumbles and drops the briefcase, which breaks open; it contains nothing but sand.



Based on 14 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 43% of critics gave White Sands a positive review; the average rating is 4.9/10.[2]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote that the storyline was both predictable and, when Lennox is revealed to be a CIA agent, utterly confusing.[3] Desson Howe of the Washington Post wrote that it is never really explained why Dafoe's character has this obsession to find out the truth about Bob's death, or the various other unexplained oddities that occur in the film, such as the fact that Mastrantonio falls in love with Dafoe's character for no apparent reason.[4]

Leonard Maltin gave the film two stars and called it "competently performed (even by Rourke) but with little else to distinguish it from dozens of its ilk”.[5]


The film is available on DVD with a few special options. It includes English- and French-language and subtitle options, a filmography of some of the cast, and trailers for this and a few other films by Morgan Creek.


  1. ^ "White Sands". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  2. ^ "White Sands (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  3. ^ White Sands : Review : Rolling Stone
  4. ^ "'White Sands' (R)". The Washington Post. April 24, 1992.
  5. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2009), p. 1541. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. ISBN 1-101-10660-3. Signet Books. Accessed May 9, 2012

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