JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Cowboy Killer (Director: Jason Baustin) - December 11, 2008

Cowboy Killer

3 3
80 min.

Metaphorical roundup a hit-and-miss ride

Just a few weeks before a Democrat President rides back into “Dodge City,” D.C., a viewing of Cowboy Killer will, frequently unintentionally, remind everyone how the fantasy world of the Wild West (where justice was meted out without benefit of trial, judge or jury) has, in many instances (er, hello there Iraq), still continues its deadly methodology, replacing six shooters and spurs with blanket bombings and scuds.

Savouring and leading the colourful slaughter is Roy Thompson (with apologies to Torontonians whose largest orchestra makes its home in a hall of the same name—still, the Canadian Thompson was a media baron …). Decked out in traditional white Stetson hat with all the trimmings, Paul Bailey devours the part with gusto as he lustily hacks all comers from the opening-sequence homecoming girl, to a breakfast cookin’ mom (and her oddly bearded queer son) to a healthy proportion of the ever-growing posse when the inevitable showdown occurs at the oh-so-appropriate rave.; With a Charles Bronson look and droll delivery of the “You’re in for a damn treat” murder-cue line, the run-out-of-Texan fake hombre (love those Virginia plates), draws near-constant jibes from the intolerant citizens he encounters but manages the last laugh as the cowardly bullies taste lead or have an up-close-and-personal encounter with the hood of their SUVs.

Like all brutal dictators, Thompson re-writes history in his memory—witness the glowing flashbacks which demonstrate the love and devotion of the victims. Dracula would be proud.

Writers Jaymes Camery, Ben Solenberger and Jason Baustin (who also directed) have populated Thompson’s world with a couple of cable installers (No Quarter Telephone and Cable Co.), a pair of town drunks—their addiction to the bottle renders any truth they utter as unbelievable—a trio of law enforcers whose chief loses faith in everything so hands over his badge to drunk No. 1, Ernie-the-serial-killer (complete with a photo album of his trophies) and enough naked women to raise certain interests when the surrounding shenanigans limp along to the next set-up.

With such a diverse group coming in and out of Thompson’s feast of carnage (faithfully captured from a healthy variety of angles by director of photography, Jason Simmons), it’s hard to maintain an overall tone or direction. No worries. There’s enough humour for the good (dyslexia converting 96 to 69 leads to a bare-assed eyeful for the utility sleuths), the bad (“Heads will roll,” following the discovery of a decapitation should have been saved for the bonus blooper reel) and the ugly (Delvin L. Brooks as the black lead has to endure both the hardware store break-in gag and serve up wine for the otherwise hilarious boardroom toast to “ living the [American] dream”—“Done that, been there” so often that these cheap laughs are about as welcome as Saddam Hussein at a Weapons of Mass Destruction convention) to entertain a sizeable portion of the population from first frame to last.

Come for the killings, stay for the chase and hope that saner minds will once again attempt to make the world a safer place. JWR

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