Why someone thought this film wasn't good enough for a theatrical release is
beyond me. Its excellent cast and quiet, strong dramatic structure create an
utterly fascinating and engrossing tale of small town political corruption
and murder. What's more, its eminent cast in both leads and supporting
players are at the top of their form with character portrayals perfectly
suited to their style and gifts.
Political corruption in small Southern towns is no surprise -- it'd be one if
there weren't any. Sheriff Darl's (Billy Bob Thornton) town is not the
exception and some of what's wrong is his own corrupt manner of applying the
law. Such as when a truck overturns and he distributes the contents of it to
his pals and cronies in town. And, he does this even after his deputy finds
the body of the woman whose streak across the highway caused the accident.
Is this laid-back and countrified, or what? Imagine the perplexity of local
forensic personnel when it's discovered that the dead person isn't so clearly
a woman but a transgender individual with great beauty primarily of the
feminine variety. Well Darl, as we've seen, runs his office as he sees fit
and keeping higher branches of law out of local matters is just his style.
But, when another beautiful woman with the name of Scarlett no less,
(Patricia Arquette) shows up in his office looking for her "husband", who
turns out to be the dead transgender person, Darl's not especially anxious to
bring his shortcomings to the attention of outside agencies. His vow to
investigate is little more than a pretext to let it all just die down.
But, not so fast. When the judge, the state governor and other powerful
people threaten Darl's reelection with a trumped up transgression, and when he
finds out that the transgender person performed at their little party just
before getting shot, Darl turns up the investigation a bit, seeking some
revenge for being set up. That he's unhappily divorced from the local
district attorney Carla (Sela Ward) and has an estranged gay brother running a
sex shop video store in New Orleans adds colorful complexities to this
steadily fascinating character piece with a pace to match the style of the
good ol' boy community it describes.
The downside is the difficulty some people will have in caring much about
such a knee-jerk homophobe and racist. But the picture is, in part, about
some big transformations he has to make in his lifelong prejudices. And,
that he has to make them through unavoidable exposure to the sort of life
styles he has always denigrated, makes his journey a compelling piece of
William Devane, as the local judge who pretty nearly always gets his way when
politics are involved, leads the troupe of supporting players performing at
This is a DVD that fits into a classic drama category. If you go for such
subject matter and appreciate movie making that excels technically and holds
you dramatically, you'll want it on your shelf in a Hollywood minute. Don't
hold back. Buy it for a first run experience.
~~ Jules Brenner