I just got home from the first rock gig of my thirties. Coincidentally, the band I saw also played the last rock gig of my twenties: Black Stone Cherry. My musical tastes tend to skew older, but these guys would easily be my favourite current band, and their live shows are fantastic. What I love most about them (after the songs of course) is that they seem to be having just as much fun as all of us. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with today’s flick, in case you were wondering.
Texans might want to avoid.
Earl and Baby are a young couple living in the small town of Bennett, Texas with their parents. Earl has sworn to Baby that he will keep her cousin Junior out of trouble, but when Junior accidentally robs a drug courier, Earl has to step in to keep him alive, not to mention make it through the weekend himself so that he and Baby can move to Los Angeles on Tuesday.
I am notoriously forgiving of bad films. Unless a movie is truly offensive to me, I can usually find something about it that’s worth appreciating. While this is not a bad film, it is not an especially good one either. It’s throwaway fun, but it won’t ever make anyone’s top 10 list. Unlike the multitude of wannabes and pretenders who sprung up in the wake of Guy Ritchie on this side of the pond, screenwriter Trevor Munson and director David Semel understand what it takes to make a crime caper film that people might actually enjoy watching: likable characters. Although they are fun to spend some time with, almost everybody in this film fits some variation of the “dumb Texas hick” stereotype, but at less than 90 minutes it’s not a hardship. Saying that, I’m not sure how popular this film would be in its home state. Showing a clear debt to the Coen Brothers’ films (particularly Fargo, Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski) what starts off as two idiots trying to carjack a pizza delivery guy soon escalates to the brink of a gang war between the local Chicanos on one side and the rich Good Ole Boy with his lackeys on the other, with Earl and his buddies right in the middle.
Of course, writing these characters is only one half of the equation; you also need the actors to make them whole. Semel has done a fair job putting together a cast of reasonably recognisable names for a low-budget movie. Joshua Jackson, as Earl, is basically still playing Pacey (this flick was made in 2002) but with a bit less self-righteousness and a bit more of a Texas accent. He is in full-on deadpan snark mode, even when being shot. Jaime King is Baby, Earl’s fiancée and step-sister*. The prettiest girl in town, her only ambition is to move to LA and be a soap star. Matthew Davis plays Earl’s gay best friend Jimbo, who has been out for six years but never been on a date, and DJ Qualls is the moronic Junior. Speaking of this guy, if you get upset by the use of the word retard you may want to take a pass on this flick. My personal highlight among the cast though is Ryan Hurst as the recently paroled Tinker. Best known as the stoic (and well-bearded) Opie from my favourite TV series Sons of Anarchy, he’s barely recognisable behind rotten teeth and patchy facial hair. Plus he’s got a gift for pratfalls, and could be a graduate of the Bruce Campbell School of Physical Comedy.
This is small-scale story, and it’s shot as one. There is no visual flair on display, the camera doesn’t really move much at all in fact. Maybe Semel spent so much of the budget getting his cast together he couldn’t afford a crane or a dolly rig. The sound quality is excellent though.
As I mentioned before, none of these characters are very well-rounded, and not one of them has any kind of an arc, but the film is saved from ignominy by a game cast, some sharp wit and a few decent visual gags. Reading back on it, this review sounds quite noncommittal. That’s not really fair to the film. I enjoyed it. This movie appeals to my occasionally low-brow sense of humour. If you find someone being run over by a pickup truck hilarious, then you might just enjoy this too.
*In their defence, Earl and Baby were seeing each other long before his momma and her daddy even met, never mind got married. As Earl puts it, he figures they’ve “got dibs on the relationship”.