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‘White Sands’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 24, 1992

Renegade FBI agents, dusky gun-runners and stealthy soldiers of the military-industrial complex: Many of the bogymen that are living under Oliver Stone's bed are featured in the overplotted but predictable thriller "White Sands." Written by the same guy who tried to scare Harry Homeowner silly with "Pacific Heights," it's got all the ingredients, though none of the gumption, of a good adventure. It's suspiciously trendy.

Willem Dafoe, who is handsome enough if we ignore those zipperlike teeth, plays a decent but bored small-town lawman who finds himself in over his Ray-Bans when he assumes the identity of a dead man found in the New Mexico desert. The picture opens spectacularly enough with a starkly beautiful overhead shot of the murder scene, but it's not too long before it's clear that the director -- Roger Donaldson of "No Way Out" -- is counting on the scenery to lend majesty to Dafoe's intrepid but plodding hero.

Dafoe becomes a key player in an FBI sting operation designed to catch Mickey Rourke, an arms broker with an apparent aversion to hair-care products who is partners with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's mystery woman. Mastrantonio knows Dafoe is not the deliveryman she was expecting, but she doesn't say anything because -- now this is amazing -- she is immediately attracted to him. This being the '90s, he isn't having any of it. Thus in the leading couple's shower scene, only the water gets hot, and stays that way.

"White Sands" is rated R for strong language, brief nudity and violence.

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