Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

One False Move


This was Billy Bob Thornton’s first starring role, a few years before he broke out in Sling Blade. He also co-wrote the script, and it’s a dilly. A white psychopath (Billy Bob), and black psychopath (Michael Beach) and a really, really stupid half-black woman (Cynda Williams) rip off a lot of cocaine in Los Angeles. In the process the black guy kills three people with a knife, and Billy Bob kills three more people by putting plastic bags over their heads. None of these murders were necessary; they just seem to enjoy it. Cynda doesn’t approve, but she is now governed by her nose, not whatever brains she might once have had, and she sets off with them on a journey to Dallas, where they plan to sell the nose candy. Not much goes right for them, though they manage to avoid serious injury.

Two Los Angeles cops (white Jim Metzler and black Earl Billings, both very good in understated roles) identify the trio, and find that the girl has kin in the little town of Star City, Arkansas. They get in contact with the chief of the three-man police force (Bill Paxton, who I’ve always liked), and it’s clear that the guy is a bit of a goof. He believes in the television cop shows he watches. He’s good at keeping the peace in the small town, but would clearly be a disaster in the Big City. So, naturally, he aspires to a job with the LAPD. The two cops go to Arkansas and at first can’t quite believe that he’s for real. But they grow to like him, and respect him in some ways. This in spite of Bill dropping the N-word (nigger, in case you’ve forgotten what it is) in front of the two cops. Billings laughs it off, and actually seems to enjoy it, because Bill so clearly isn’t a disgusting racist; he was just raised (like me, sad to say) with that awful word.

It all works toward a collision of the bad guys and the cops, naturally, and that’s all I will say about it. But I thought it was all worked out very well. There are a dozen clichéd ways this could have gone, and I felt that it avoided them all. Can’t ask for more than that.