Tag Archives: Eric Dane

Campaign Promises

Little Dixie

by George Wolf

By now, we’ve moved past the “it’s nice to see longtime supporting player Frank Grillo in the lead” phase, haven’t we? He’s established himself as a charismatic actor more than capable of carrying a film.

And while he’s still a reliably galvanizing presence in Little Dixie, the movie itself struggles to carve out its own identity as it vacillates between a generic crime narrative and some seedy sexual underbellies.

Grillo stars as Doc, a no-nonsense intermediary between Texas Gov. Richard Jeffs (Eric Dane) and a ruthless Mexican cartel run by Lalo Prado (Maurice Compte). But when the Gov. goes rogue and ignores the truce that Doc has brokered, Lalo’s bloodthirsty brother Cuco (Beau Knapp) crosses the border looking for payback – and his search starts with Doc’s daughter (Sofia Bryant).

So yes, expect plenty of “If you touch her I swear to God I’ll….,” but also writer/director John Swab’s penchant for hard turns.

This time Swab goes searching for subversion inside a Sicario-like setup, an approach similar to how he attacked truck stop horror in the recent Candy Land. But while that film managed to uncover something surprisingly human amid all the brutality, the persistent posturing and lurid details in Little Dixie do little to raise the resonance of characters or choices – and in at least one instance end up bordering on blood-soaked parody.

But the attempt to firebomb expectations almost works, more evidence that Swab may just need a little more seasoning to find his uniquely compelling voice. Until then, Little Dixie stands as a cluster of eyebrow-raising campaign promises drowned out by a standard stump speech.

Great American Melting Pot

American Carnage

by Hope Madden

“I’m an a**hole, JP, not a quitter.”

This, I think, is my favorite thing about director/co-writer Diego Hallivis’s sociopolitical horror American Carnage. Rather than setting up one-dimensional, morally impenetrable heroes, Hallivis—writing with his brother Julio—delivers likable but flawed, and therefore realistic, characters to root for.

Those characters are mainly the offspring of immigrants: JP (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Camila (Jenna Ortega), Big Mac (Allen Maldonado) among them. Governor Harper Finn’s (Brett Cullen) election-friendly executive order not only deports all illegal immigrants, but also detains their US-born children for failing to turn their parents over to authorities.

Some of those kids can work off their sentence by providing elder care at the Alcove, an institution run by the benevolent Eddie (Eric Dane).

Though the comedic writing is never as sharp as it should be, Hallivis’s cast supplies charm and sarcasm in equal measure. Unsurprisingly, Ortega stands out as the group’s unofficial badass. Her scowl and unlikeable demeanor are the perfect offset to Lendeborg Jr.’s good-natured tenderness.

Maldonado works hardest to elevate tepid dialog, delivering the film’s most consistent comic relief with a jovial, lovable character.

The villains, on the whole, are not the over-the-top psychopaths of traditional horror. This is no doubt intentional. Racist danger, especially as it was uncovered and amplified during Trump’s reign (the film’s title comes from his inaugural speech), is a kind of walks in broad daylight, may be your neighbor, blends into the background reality.

Other than one little dance of evil, the villain performances are somewhat understated.

The villainy is not. There’s a metaphor at work, and though it doesn’t entirely work, the goodwill Hallivis’s cast generates keeps you interested in their journey and eager for comeuppance.

What starts off with a nearly The Forever Purge vibe takes a sharp turn into creepier John Hughes territory, then another dramatically Romero pivot. American Carnage looks good and performances are solid, but the movie can’t overcome those tonal shifts.