“Lone Star” – 1996. Dir. John Sayles.

With Chris Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, Elizabeth Pena, Joe Mortin, Frances McDormand and Kris Kristofferson

“You’re bein’ mighty careless with your mouth son.”

Two things struck me about this film. The first is the screenplay, its pitch perfect. It’s greatness. If David Mamet and the Coen Brother’s had a baby that was a screenplay – it would be “Lone Star”. The second thing that strikes me about the film is how Sayles (this is my very first John Sayles movie) was able to put forth racism in the form of a southern film noir. Think “Blood Simple” meets “Do the Right Thing”.

The film opens with the uncovering of a body in the Texas dessert. All that is left is the hole is the skeleton, a sheriff’s star and a Free Mason’s ring. The Sheriff of the town Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) uncovers many secrets that lay with that of the dead body. As Cooper investigates the mysterious body, the small town he lives in is dedicating a day to his father, Buddy Deeds (McConaughey) who stood up to the corrupt Sheriff Charley Wade (Kristofferson) and “saved” the town from more than forty years ago.

Tensions build in the town; the Mexican population is now the majority and a predominantly black military base is about to close down. The white population has little left to hold onto so they all cling onto the legacy of McConaughey. Cooper knows him as more then the legendary lawman, he knows him for the man he truly was.

I have never liked Matthew McConaughey in much of anything, but with the little screen time he has in the film during flashback sequences he grabs you, and absorbs into you. Chris Cooper does an excellent job as always balancing the truths about his father, and the towns brooding race relations.

Kris Kristofferson is cold as ice in the role as McConaughey’s mentor and enemy. His character Charley Wade has an influence on the entire town, and he puts a hold on everyone by collecting tribute from every business, every race. The way the camera moves around Kristofferson is brilliant. We never stop moving, every time Kristofferson is in the frame, we’re normally rolling to the side of him, as if his hardness is going to spill off onto us, the audience.

What makes this film so complex is that it deals not only with the Cooper, McConaughey, Kristofferson arc but it also deviates to Elizabeth Pena’s story between her and her mother. It also branches off to Joe Morton’s storyline with him being the highest ranking officer at the soon to be closed Military base, and his relationship with his estranged father who runs an “all black” club outside of town.

This film is what “Crash” and all other “white guilt” race relations movies try to be.

The ending to the film is such a climactic showdown it can almost, just almost rival that of “Unforgiven” or “Tombstone”. It’s shot with Kristofferson barging into the “all black bar” and demanding tribute from the bar owner. The sequence is queued up to an old school blues tune where we see Kristofferson yelling, but can’t hear him. The only sounds we hear is the blues song and ambient noise. It’s brilliantly done.

The editing of this film is one of the best I’ve seen. The way it crosscuts from current time with Cooper, to forty plus years ago with McConaughey or Kristofferson. It is a great display of the talent of John Sayles. This film leaves me wanting more of this story, more of these so unbelievably rich characters. This film leaves me wanting more John Sayles.

Someone recommend a Sayles movie to me!

Review: 9.5/10

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Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

8 thoughts on ““Lone Star” – 1996. Dir. John Sayles.”

  1. I actually own “Eight Men Out” but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. I only have 2 more weeks of classes, then I’m going binge heavily on all these movies I’ve been holding out on.

  2. I really liked “PASSION FISH” (Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, David Strathairn) and “SILVER CITY” has to be watched if only to see Chris Cooper’s gubernatorial candidate, Dickie Pilager, a thinly disguised , oh so brilliant parody of a certain former US president. And yes, “Matewan” was great. But “Lone Star” is in a league of its own.
    And I am looking out for “AMIGO” , about the Philippine-American War, in post-production, again with Chris Cooper!!

  3. I will see any movie where Chris Cooper gets a leading role. Damn, I love that man. He is killer here and he is killer in “Breach.” Someone give this actor more leading parts!

    Me, I kind of hate The Tan Shirtless Texan (it’s easier than spelling his last name), but he has so little screen time here he’s bearable. Elizabeth Peña continues to be a stellar character actress.

    So you like John Sayles. What are your thoughts on “Limbo”? I believe the first time I saw it I threw the remote at the TV when it came to that “Paper Tiger”-esque ending!

  4. This was my very first Sayles outing. I’m excited to see more! As for the Tan Shirtless Texan, I originally thought you were referring to Kris Kristofferson – which I don’t understand how anyone could hate such a man like that!

    Thanks for lighting up my blog M Carter at the Movies!

  5. They shoot horses blew, woody allen could shit out a a script better than that. In fact he has, once a year since 1962.

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