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By Phil Hall | June 23, 2005

Scott Caan makes his writing and directing debut with “Dallas 362.” It is not a cause for celebration.

The film focuses on a pair of young thugs in a seedy section of Los Angeles who have a knack for getting arrested in barroom brawls (although they magically manage to avoid such inconveniences as jail time or serious injuries). Rusty (Shawn Hatosy) came to L.A. ten years earlier with his mother from Texas following the untimely death of his father, a rodeo rider, during a tournament. Rusty wants to go back to Texas and follow in his father’s footsteps (or saddle, or whatever), but old mom (Kelly Lynch, who really looks old here) throws fits whenever the subject is raised.

Rusty rooms with Dallas (Caan), who is not from Texas despite his name. Mighty of muscle but weak of brain, Dallas is a collector for a local criminal (Heavy D). When Dallas decides to get involved in a robbery aimed at his miscreant employer, the trouble really starts.

As a writer, Caan has a tin-ear for dialogue. Lines crash like dishes: “I am not a shitty gambler, I am a victim of circumstance” and “He’s more than my son, he’s my best friend” are among the best (which ain’t saying much for the rest of the script). As a director, Caan must have told his cast they were performing for an audience with severe visual and hearing impairments: “Dallas 362” has the most over-the-top hamming this side of a home movie. Most egregious are Val Lauren as a psychotic Jewish gambler named Christian (he speaks like Jerry Lewis, circa 1950) and Freddy Rodriguez as a Latino crime planner (he behaves like Cantinflas on acid).

The two stars have zero on-screen chemistry and it often feels as if they were integrated into the same scene via split-screen trickery. Hatosy sounds like the old cartoon character Deputy Dawg, which is odd given that his character’s mother has no Texas drawl whatsoever. Caan doesn’t bother with funny accents, since most of his time is spent showing off his muscular torso. Throughout the film, he is either shirtless or bare-chested or poured into tight sleeveless t-shirts. He looks great, but unfortunately this is a movie and not an underwear ad.

The Native Spirit brand of cigarettes is prominently featured throughout the film as the preferred choice of smokes. Its presence is so heavy that it deserves co-starring status.

At 100 minutes in running time, “Dallas 362” can be called “The Amateur Hour-and-40-Minutes.”

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