LaRoy, Texas Image

LaRoy, Texas

By Anthony Francis | April 22, 2024

Writer-director Shane Atkinson’s LaRoy, Texas, is a deliciously nasty and vicious motion picture. It has the style of early John Dahl, especially Red Rock West, with a splash of the grim humor of the Coen Brothers. This is the kind of Southern pulp noir that grabs its audience by the hair and forces them down in the muck, where they will be firsthand witnesses to the violent nature of the characters.

Ray (the great John Magaro) is a classic noir schlub — the very definition of a pushover. His older brother, Junior (Matthew Del Negro), treats him like an inferior even though the two supposedly own equal shares in the hardware business they inherited from their parents. One day, Ray learns that his wife, Stacy-Lynn (Megan Stevenson), is having an affair. This soul-crushing revelation is delivered to him by Skip (Steve Zahn), a low-rent private detective good ol’ boy whose attire is a bolo tie and black cowboy hat that completes his wannabe badass look. Since he can never earn respect from anyone he encounters, the local police and the rest of the town see Skip as more of a bumbling intruder rather than a Texas-bred Phillip Marlowe.

Sitting outside the sleazy motel where his wife has her trysts, Ray decides to shoot himself. As he puts the gun to his head, along comes a strange man who pulls up next to his car. The stranger mistakes Ray for a hitman. As he gets in the car, the man hands Ray money and tells him, “It needs to be done tomorrow.” So begins Ray’s twisted and increasingly bloody path to his fate. As it comes to pass for the young man in way over his head, suicide may have been the safer bet.

The stranger mistakes Ray for a hitman.”

Everyone in Laroy, Texas is morally corrupt or just plain misguided. Strangely enough, the one character with a focused sense of self is Harry (Dylan Baker), the hitman whose job Ray took that fateful night. Always one of our most interesting character actors, Baker’s Harry respects commitment while presenting himself as a milquetoast, white-bread man who appears less than menacing. Baker is precise in crafting this very real wolf in sheep’s clothing, turning in one of his best performances since Todd Solondz’s button-pushing Happiness.

This is an immersive crime thriller with a sharp edge. Atkinson’s script has a lot going on but keeps things tight, never losing the dramatic (and occasionally comedic) threads of the plot or its characters. The director doesn’t let the film get too absurd (save for a couple of a*****e cops who constantly hound Skip) and won’t allow himself to skate by on mere homage. The filmmaker cuts a clear and entertaining path through this darkly comic narrative by giving certain characters an attainable inner light. While everyone is imbued by “the devilish,” a few are inherently good people caught in bad situations.

Two of the most interesting characters are found in LeDoux (Adam Leland) and his wife Midge (Darcy Sheen). Leland excels as the intimidating used-car salesman. While this boisterous man carries a gun and tough-talks Ray and Skip, it is his deceptively obedient wife who reveals herself to be the one who has the town by its balls. As their characters expertly represent, no one is what they seem.

With Larroy, Texas, Atkinson proves himself a confident filmmaker and screenwriter with an ear for dialogue and skill in designing intriguing characters and situations. Armed with a dedication to character and atmosphere, LaRoy, Texas, is an intense and involving Southern-fried noir.

LaRoy, Texas (2024)

Directed and Written: Shane Atkinson

Starring: John Magaro, Steve Zahn, Dylan Baker, Megan Stevenson, Galadriel Stineman, Matthew Del Negro, Brad Leland, Darcy Shean, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

LaRoy, Texas Image

"…intense and involving..."

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