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The Bottom Shelf #147

02.14.2008
100%

I'd like to be able to call Thornton and Mullany honourary brothas, but I'm not a sister, so what would I know? Well... I know flicks. And that these are two well worth watching.

ONE FALSE MOVE (1992)
Directed by: Carl Franklin
Starring: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton

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Billy Bob knows country. He also seems to know scumbags, going through good looking women like they're his 64 ounces of required H2O consumption a day and setting people on their ear when it comes to writing an intriguing story. He knows to keep things simple and follow the standard plot line. Then he gives you characters who aren't one-dimensional, as if he understands that while the rest of the states consider country folks to be idiot inbreds, they're far from it. Even the ones that seem the most inbred have levels of depth to them that you don't sense until the moment that they have to confront it themselves. Which is why I admire Thornton so much. He pulls off unassuming so seamlessly that you're thanking him when he finally comes around to smacking you in the face.

Two bad guys, one white and one black, who have done hard time in San Quentin together get the white boy's black girlfriend to help them pull off a little criminal endeavor. Figure out where the guy who's holding a wad of cash and an even bigger wad of cocaine is hiding. She's along for the ride but still moral enough to be disturbed by their murderous rampage, covering her face with hands to scoop up the tears before lining her nasal cavities with the white stuff to blot out the ugly images. The black dude is the smart one, insisting that the drugs need to get peddled in Houston, which means a long car ride from L.A. with five-oh on their tails. More shit just doesn't go down right and a state patroller gets popped. All the while, the L.A. detectives are setting up shop in a rural Arkansas town on a tip that the trio will be passing through. In that little blip on the map, they have to deal with an overzealous local cop who wants to put his good 'ol boy ways to use.

Bill Paxton, I do believe, has A.D.D. Either that or he just pulls off being really hyper really well in all of his roles. Briefly stopping to catch your sympathy in the country bumpkin gaze of "I just wanted to do good!" he also can eke out a Thornton himself from time to time, delivering depth that you couldn't see when he first assaults you on screen. This is one of those cases where you learn very little about the characters, just scratches into what is some very toughly developed thick skin, and yet you still manage to relate to them and understand their trauma, yearnings and desires. Even smaller roles, like that of Paxton's put-upon good Southern woman wife, speak in greater volumes with their limited access than I've seen in films that were purportedly vivid exposes on people. This is great story telling which doesn't tell a story that you haven't heard any other place a million times. This is just, as they say, storytelling done right.

Favorite Scene:

When Paxton turns in the breakfast check, telling the waitress to keep the change and heads out the door as she says there's no change out of a ten for a twelve dollar tab.

Favorite Line:

"I looked white enough for you to f*ck me. But I looked black enough for you to dump me."

Trivia Tidbit:

Director Franklin is a well known actor, with a notable credit of being Captain Crane on the popular '80's television show, "The A-Team." This was also the first writing coupling that Thornton had with buddy Tom Epperson.

See if you liked:

LONE STAR, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, PRESUMED INNOCENT

THE BREAKS (1999)
Directed by: Eric Meza
Starring: Mitch Mullany, Loretta Devine

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

When I was growing up as a pre-teen and teenager, either you were a white kid with long hair listening to heavy metal or you were a white kid trying to be the next Vanilla Ice. If you were smarter, that might have actually been the next Beastie Boy, but my point is that it was very trendy to fall into one or the other group during the mid to late eighties. So the plotline of an Irish white boy who thinks he's black isn't anything spectacular in my opinion. It'd been done enough times to start to grow old on me. Which makes me wonder how the hell this movie got made in 1999, long after the trendiness of this situation had worn off and about the time that The WB was canceling all of its black centered comedies. Mitch Mullany, the guy playing the wannabe here may have written the script as well, but aside from a 4 episode stint as "White Mike" on "The Wayans Bros.," there isn't a whole lot else on his resume.

Still, there's something sincere in his portrayal of Derrick, an Irish orphan who ends up in the net of a black fisherman from South Central, Los Angeles. The movie takes its sweet time getting around to how Derrick ended up in his family, instead starting with a bang that's more like the backfire from a lowrider than anything mind-blowing. Loretta Devine is the mother fed up with her adopted progeny's antics, throwing him out of her house for being an uneducated mess who can't even remember to get a carton of milk while the rest of the family is off at church. Along the course of the day Derrick ends up in the garden variety amount of white-boy-wandering-around-in-South-Central messes, including helping a little kid that he refers to as "Gay Urkel" and getting funk guidance from George Clinton while on a blunt-induced bender in jail.

I'd prefer to tell you that I was unimpressed by the movie, that it was just some low-rent piece of garbage that I'd rather shoot myself in the face with a frozen Jenny-O turkey launcher than admit watching. But frankly, I kinda like crap if it's sincere. And there are some just wacked out scenes in the movie that you can't over look. When you throw in that the cast is packed full of under-recognized and under-appreciated black actors (everyone from Carl Anthony Payne II, the guy better known as Cockroach from "The Cosby Show" to Larry B. Scott, the actor who played Lamar in the "Revenge of the Nerds" series) and add in that despite the stereotype of white-guy-in-da-hood Mullany is pretty damn charming, this ends up being a film that sticks with you. The more I think about it, the more little bits and pieces I like about the film. Or maybe that's just because Xzibit (yes, I had to look it up to spell it properly because I'm just that legitimately white) coughs up fake blood after being doused with a splash from a Colt 45 Forty. Pimp my cameo, yannow?

Favorite Scene:

The poem about being a white boy.

Favorite Line:

"No, I'm just light skinn'did."

Trivia Tidbit:

The red-neck police officers are played by John Farley and Kevin P. Farley... the younger brothers of deceased funnyman Chris Farley.

See if you liked:

HOUSE PARTY, CLASS ACT, DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN

After doing some research, I found out that Mullany is doing stand-up currently. You can catch some clips on his YouTube page, here. (Um, you weren't really expecting a Valentine's Day feature from me, were you?)

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12:38PM on 02/14/2008

HELL YEAH!

I love THE BREAKS! It's like a whiteboy version of FRIDAY! This movie is definitely worth picking up in the bargain bin!
I love THE BREAKS! It's like a whiteboy version of FRIDAY! This movie is definitely worth picking up in the bargain bin!
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11:44AM on 02/14/2008

Thornton is a God

Not really, but he knows small-town southern sensibilities. And being from a small southern town I gotta give him props for embracing stereotypes and expanding on them.

"One False Move" is not masterpiece, but it does do an interesting job of portraying diversity in a small southern town. I love that the deputy sheriff is from Detroit. Where I am about half the population is from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Not really, but he knows small-town southern sensibilities. And being from a small southern town I gotta give him props for embracing stereotypes and expanding on them.

"One False Move" is not masterpiece, but it does do an interesting job of portraying diversity in a small southern town. I love that the deputy sheriff is from Detroit. Where I am about half the population is from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
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