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LaRoy, Texas Review: Small-Time Crime Comedy

John Magaro and Steve Zahn sit on a couch next to each other in the film Laroy Texas

In the twisty comedy-drama LaRoy, Texas, first-time director Shane Atkinson channels the Coen brothers with a stacked cast.

Joel and Ethan Coen’s filmmaking sensibility has been relentlessly imitated throughout the years, but LaRoy, Texas serves as a worthy attempt from first-time writer-director Shane Atkinson. You’ll notice from the film’s opening scene that the seemingly mundane conversation between a driver and a hitchhiker drips with unspoken menace. But, as the film continues, even more similarities emerge.

Atkinson quickly establishes a singular mood while simultaneously giving us memorable characters. Our “hero” is Ray (John Magaro, First Cow and Past Lives), a sadsack living in the titular small town. His wife Stacy-Lynn (Megan Stevenson) is cheating on him, his brother Junior (Matthew Del Negro) treats him like crap, and though he runs the family hardware store, Junior constantly undermines his authority. He’s moments away from literally pulling the trigger when a cosmic misunderstanding looks to change his whole trajectory.

Just like the Coens’ best work, LaRoy, Texas boasts a stacked cast of character actors and a pitch-black sense of humor. Both arrive in the form of Steve Zahn’s Skip, a private detective who gets no respect from the local cops. Zahn has been one of the steadiest, most underrated comedic actors over the course of his career, and the film gives him every opportunity to shine. Magaro similarly nails his role as a man who’s too far in over his head, and too meek to do the necessary dirty work. He may mostly be known for his roles in Kelly Reinhardt films, but LaRoy, Texas shows he can handle goofy comedy just as well.

Dylan Baker looks up while standing in a store aisle in the film Laroy Texas
LaRoy, Texas (Brainstorm Media)

Speaking of character actors, Dylan Baker appears as Harry, a hit man who seeks to finish a job which Ray is hired to do. Wires get crossed, threats are made, and innocent people get mistakenly killed, and Ray is dragged into an underworld that he has no business in. Atkinson peppers in a great deal of character-based and situational humor, including an interrogation scene that ranks as one of the year’s funniest, but the screenplay’s major failing is in how predictable most of its developments become. Once Ray receives a stack of cash and a piece of paper with nothing but an address, you’ll know what’s going to come after, more or less. And for a film at close to two hours, it’s a bit too long to spend waiting for the shoes to drop. This is a plot-heavy film to a fault, as the third act perhaps contains one or two too many twists.

Unlike Fargo, which LaRoy, Texas hews closest to, Atkinson doesn’t try to make some kind of grand statement about bad people, and that’s OK. If any themes emerge by the end of the film, it’s in how the underdogs can find value within themselves. Thankfully Atkinson doesn’t look down on these characters, treating them as mostly realistic people with wants and needs. You’ve seen versions of the film before, to varying degrees of success. But for an original indie crime comedy-drama, you could do a lot worse than LaRoy, Texas. 

Get it on Apple TV

LaRoy, Texas will be released in US theaters and on demand on April 12, 2024.

LaRoy, Texas: Trailer (Brainstorm Media)

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