Tag Archives: Dylan Baker

Is This Your Homework, LaRoy?

LaRoy, Texas

by Christie Robb

When small-town pushover Ray (John Magaro, Past Lives) finds himself caught up in a blackmail/murder-for-hire scheme, he teams up with high school-acquaintance/bumbling private investigator Skip (Steve Zahn) to get to the bottom of things.

This neo-noir crime-comedy is writer/director Shane Atkinson’s first feature (he wrote the screenplay for the 2019 Diane Keaton vehicle Poms). It feels like a streamlined take on the Big Lebowski—mistaken identity gets loser in over his head in a world full of morally ambiguous/dangerous characters. An overly-invested partner invites himself along and makes the situation worse. A somewhat complex mystery is unraveled. There are funny interactions with various weirdos.

Zahn (White Lotus) is a highlight. His cowboy-at-prom ensemble. His golden retriever vibe. His enthusiasm for detection. It’s all glorious. 

Dylan Baker’s (Selma) Harry the Hitman is unsettling in the manner of that unassuming neighbor who keeps to himself but then gets caught doing something unspeakable, like using a stray cat as a fleshlight. He shifts from disarming charm to efficient malevolence like a finely-tuned racecar.

However, while LaRoy, Texas is funny, it’s missing the quirk of the Cohen brothers cult classic. The lead, Ray, lands as a too bland everyman—a boring sad-sack point of stability around which the plot turns. The dialogue could be snappier. The women could have more to do. And it definitely deserved a better soundtrack.

But if you are looking to program a night of neo-noir, you could totally play LaRoy, Texas as an opening act as long as you save the superstars like Fargo and the Big Lebowski for later in the evening.

Come with Me and Be Immortal


by Hope Madden

Countless movies over the years have pondered what it might feel like to be immortal. Writer Jon Dabach, in four separate tales with one thread in common, wonders what it would be like not to be able to die.

His film Immortal strings together these stories, each one directed by a different person (Tom Colley, Danny Isaacs, Rob Margolies and Dabach himself), each one depicting one person’s relationship with deathlessness.

The composite contains a horror short, two thrillers and one anguished romance.

Chelsea, starring the great Dylan Baker, offers a somewhat overwritten first act. Baker is beloved old high school English teacher Mr. Shagis, Chelsea (Lindsay Mushet) is the school’s star athlete, and today’s lesson is symbolism.

Baker’s as nuanced and fascinating as always in a short that starts things off with a solid smack.

Of the balance, Mary and Ted is most effective. Assisted suicide advocates film a video of the longtime married couple played lovingly by Robin Bartlett and Tony Todd. We, along with the crew, get to know them—their love, their suffering—and then the crew leaves them to their task.

I feel like I want to send Dabach a thank you note for this one, just to see Tony Todd this tender. The sub-baritone voiced horror icon (Candyman, Night of the Living Dead) delicately wields emotion and heartbreak here in a way we’ve certainly never seen from this actor. Bartlett offers an outstanding counterpoint, the believable resignation in her delivery weighing down every line.

A hit and run victim exacts precise revenge in Warren, which takes a particularly solitary view: So you just found out you can’t die. What do you do now? The absolute ordinariness, the down-to-earthiness of this one’s delivery—as well as the charmingly odd investigator—give it real appeal.

Even the one that feels most predictable takes a wildly unpredictable turn—one the filmmakers do not shy away from capturing on film. In each, there’s an element of discovery that punctuates the story. Dabach and his team of directors capture a wide range of emotions and attitudes, but leave the audience wondering just enough.

Immortal is essentially an anthology of short films, and in fact, the pieces do not intersect, nor do they clarify much. Instead, they offer four slices of life—well, slices of not death—and an intriguing look at what death means to us.