Lionsgate // 2008 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 5th, 2008
Vigilante justice...it's a real blast!
"Hey, somebody get that Mexican!"
Joe Bill "Rack" Racklin (Toby Keith, Broken Bridges) is the local deputy sheriff, and he enjoys his job. Mostly, his job involves giggling at the rednecks when they break the law. Every once in a while, he'll run across one of them punk kids or minorities, and he's forced to pull out his gun and enforce the rules. Rack and his partner (Rodney Carrington, The Longest Yard) have all kinds of crazy adventures together, chasing criminals, thinking about chasing tail, and trying to teach their stupid dog how to sniff for drugs. Things may just be fine and dandy at work, but it could certainly be better at home. Rack's girlfriend (Gina Gershon, P.S. I Love You) has just left him, claiming that Rack is just too irresponsible.
Rack is quick to recover from this loss. His old flame, Annie (Claire Forlani, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius), is back in town, and it turns out that she still has a thing for Rack. They go out on a date, start getting close and cuddly, and everything is progressing nicely. Then something startling happens. Something always does in the movies, right? Annie is kidnapped by Evil Mexican Illegal Immigrant Drug Dealers, providing the perfect excuse for Rack to go out and beat the crap out of some of those nasty folks from south of the border. It's gonna be a good old-fashioned redneck lynching party! Yee-haw!
So, I was listening to the radio about a month ago, and I heard this "Beer for My Horses" song by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson. I had heard the song before, but never really paid it much attention. This time, I actually listened to the words, and I was honestly a little appalled. The song is essentially a hearty endorsement of lynch mobs, which I most assuredly do not endorse. I mentioned it to my wife, and she said, "Oh yeah, I've heard that one. Really horrible song." Fast forward a few weeks, and I find myself reviewing a movie starring Toby Keith based on that very same song. The unpleasant experience is expanded to 90 minutes.
The film is even more odd and off-putting than the song it is based on. It begins as a Larry the Cable Guy vehicle that just so happens to be starring Toby Keith. For the first half hour or so, it's a goofy flick that wanders the stereotypical conventions of the redneck life. It celebrates trucks, bull-headed pride, torture, chauvinist macho behavior, guns, farts, and general idiocy. This material is nothing short of painful to sit through. Keith displays absolutely no comedic gifts whatsoever. He demonstrated in Broken Bridges that he could handle a dramatic scene with competence, but here he just seems completely out of his element. He is joined by redneck comic Rodney Carrington, who employs his usual brand of country-fried crassness. The movie pauses every five minutes or so to let him tell a joke, and I really do mean that it pauses. The film is so lacking in creativity that it can't even find a way to work Carrington's humor into the film organically. We also get uninteresting supporting turns from Barry Corbin (No Country For Old Men), Tom Skeritt (Alien, and who seems to be on some sort of prescription medication), and Ted Nugent (Tapeheads).
The second act simply doesn't approach being worthy of being called "good," but it's at least pleasantly banal. Forlani acts circles around Keith during the obligatory love scenes, which is surprising, considering that her character is so poorly written. Keith came up with the story, and the screenplay was written by Keith and Carrington. These two have a few major weaknesses that are immediately apparent. For one thing, they have no idea how to successfully shift tone. The movie jerks from slapstick comedy to violent drama in remarkably ungainly ways, and the results are laughable. There has also been little to no studying done on law enforcement procedure or the legal system. Additionally, the movie uses a combination of crudely obvious humor, cheap sentiment, and rage-fueled hatred to create a rather nasty pot of cinematic stew. Finally, it's evident that Carrington and Keith simply can't write women. The less said about that, the better.
The worst material comes in the third act. Rack and his buddies determine to go out and beat the crap out of the Mexicans who kidnapped his gal pal, and the whole thing has a rather nasty undertone. It might be one thing if this was a standard vigilante film, but this movie seems to take a disturbing amount of pleasure in the proceedings. Racial stereotypes are abundant. Every Mexican in the film is a murderous villain, and every black person in the film is a gang member. We also get a musical pissing sequence and a very awkward visit to a circus run by Willie Nelson. Everything climaxes in a sequence that seems much too violent and nasty for a comedy as goofy as this one.
The transfer here is okay, but there is a little bit of color bleeding. Flesh tones are also a little off, but blacks are reasonably deep. Facial detail is stellar. The audio is pretty well-balanced, but suffers from a very uneven score courtesy of Jeff Cardoni. The music is raucous and obnoxious half the time, and sickeningly sweet the rest of the time. The supplements here are often as painful as the film itself. We get a lengthy piece talking about how much Keith loves his Ford F-150 (which gets a lot of gratuitous screen time in the film). Keith demonstrates his ideas for various movies: an epic historical war epic (Toby beats up Muslims), a kung-fu movie (Toby beats up oriental people), etc. Not funny. "The Good and Bad People of Mangum, OK" (10 minutes) is an introduction to the cast, while "Songwriter to Screenwriter" (10 minutes) allows Toby to tell us that, "I've been a real creative writer all my life." "CMT on Set" (six minutes) is a brief making-of piece from Country Music Television, offering brief interviews with Keith and others. Finally, a seven-minute blooper reel and a trailer wrap things up. Pretty dull stuff.
Beer for My Horses is dumb at best, mean-spirited at worst. Then again, this sort of thing is geared at a very specific audience, and I imagine you all ready know whether or not you are a part of that audience.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13