Monday, May 31, 2021

Death in Texas, Co-Starring Stephen Lang & John Ashton

As a bordertown El Paso has easy access to drugs and black market organs from Mexico. Unfortunately for Billy Walker, the same cartel controls the trafficking of both. He starts robbing from them to pay for a new liver for his mother. It is not a really well-thought-out plan, but at least he’ll be cleaning up the town a little in director-screenwriter Scott Windhauser’s Death in Texas, which releases Friday in theaters and on VOD.

Walker has just been paroled thanks to his mother Grace’s failing health. He isn’t a bad guy. He just had bad luck and a bad temper. She is so far down on the donor list, her chances of a transplant are remote, unless Walker buys a liver “off the books.” That will take 160K in cash, so he starts with a former associate working for the Cartel. Stealing Cartel money quickly attracts the attention of Reynolds, the Cartel boss and Asher, the crooked cop in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Grace finds unlikely romance with John Scofield, a disgraced former doctor now working as an orderly in the hospital. His backstory will turn out to be significant to Walker’s story, in a very contrived way.

Windhauser just can’t seem to make up his mind what
Death in TX is supposed to be: indie crime drama, exploitative narco-thriller, or self-parody. It is just never sufficiently gritty, grungy, or violent to really qualify as anything. Still, Ronnie Gene Blevins deserves credit for his hardboiled but understated performance as Walker. He is pretty solid, but Bruce Dern just looks laughable as Reynolds, as if the Cartel would choose a desiccated old hippie to run its American operations.

Frankly, even the usually reliable Stephen Lang and Lara Flynn Boyle seem slightly off-key as Scofield and Mother Walker. However, John Ashton (Taggart from
Beverly Hills Cop) is terrific as Asher. He almost saves the whole show—almost but not quite.

Death in TX
is not terrible, but it just never really works. Nevertheless, it provides a timely reminder of how dangerous the border region still is (now more than ever), but there is not enough suspense or vicarious payback satisfaction. If you want to see a two-fisted bordertown thriller, check out The Hollow Point, with the great Ian McShane. Not recommended (or really hated), Death in Texas releases in theaters and on VOD platforms this Friday (6/4).