Tyler Russell’s Texas Cotton is inoffensive entertainment about the nefarious goings-on in the small town of La Coste, Texas. It seems the crops, mainly cotton, of La Coste mysteriously die off season after season. When the farms fail, wealthy Mayor Kane buys them up from the farmers, who are grateful for his help in their time of need. His philanthropy is touching. Nothing fishy there at all, no siree.
Police Sergeant Travis Delmore, known as Del to everyone, is an aging lawman in a decades-old groove of serving and protecting and hanging out at the diner. He is kind and well loved, and seemingly the last honest person in town, beset on all sides by those who are either corrupt, stupid, or both.
When the overbearing mayor foists his loyal idiot Barney Shanks off on Del as the new deputy, Del spends his time trying to keep Barney from hurting himself. On his first day Barney Fife (er Shanks, rather) radios in that he’s caught a suspicious stranger spraying something on a farm’s crops.
“…seemingly the last honest person in town…”
Del rolls up and what follows is a bumbling clusterfuck of a shoot-out where Barney accidentally hits a chemical barrel. Instead of springing a leak it detonates setting off all the other barrels in a noisy conflagration. They arrest the man, who is known only as Joe and says he’s a horticulturist (the longest word in the script), and take him in, kicking off the great “sprayer” scandal of La Coste.
The film is a drama, sprinkled with (hopefully intentional) humor. Coen-esque repartee includes the townspeople repeatedly referring to the man as “that sprayer” as if that’s a crime we should all be familiar with. It starts as an odd quirk and becomes more comical with every serious deadpan repetition.
Del investigates “the sprayer” situation. When things don’t seem to be adding up for Del, He stumbles upon what should be the worst kept secret in town about the chemicals being sprayed on the crops. This revelation near the end of the film is good for a horrified laugh.
George Hardy delivers authentically as Del, and the rest of the cast turn in good, if not great, performances.
Texas Cotton echoes the style of many western-set films that have gone before. Russell blends crime drama, country humor, and cornpone indie-style into a crackerjack of a fun movie.
Texas Cotton (2018) Directed by Tyler Russell. Written by Jameel Khaja. Starring George Hardy, Merritt Bennett, Vincent Berger, Jamie Callahan.
7 out of 10