J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mean Dreams, Starring Bill Paxton

A crooked cop and abusive father like Wayne Caraway needs someone like Dale “Hurricane” Dixon from One False Move to put a stopper in his bottle. Unfortunately, instead of a showdown between Bill Paxton characters, we will watch Paxton’s Caraway completely dominate a gawky teenager who just can’t compete. Still, it is fun to watch another vintage performance from the late, great Paxton in Nathan Morlando’s Mean Dreams (trailer here), which opens tonight in New York.

Sensitive loner Jonas Ford sure takes notice when Casey Caraway moves to town with her father, the new sheriff’s deputy. For some reason, she also takes a liking to him, even though his bipolar Church Lady mother does her best to scare her off. Of course, it’s nothing compared to what Caraway will do. Not only does he raise his hand to Casey, he also appears to have an unhealthy need to control her. 

Determined to save his new girlfriend and avoid another beating of his own, Ford happens to be skulking about when Caraway turns drug deal into a multiple murder. He rashly decides Wayne’s stash of drug cash will be their nest egg, so he grabs the girl, the money, and her loyal dog Blaise and heads off into the Badlands. Naturally, Caraway will follow hot on their trail, like the devil himself.

Sophie Nélisse and Josh Wiggins are both duller than dishwater as the teens on the run. That causes a fundamental imbalance within the film, because Paxton goes for broke as the flamboyantly evil Caraway and Colm Feore adds further villainous zest as his partner in crime, the crooked Sheriff. Frankly, the bad guys have the straight folks thoroughly outclassed. The only exception is Joe Cobden, who quietly devastates in a handful of pivotal scenes as Ford’s meek and self-loathing father Elbert.

Mean Dreams is not a bad film, but it really just reminds us how awesome Paxton was playing the country boy with a dark twist in films like One False Move, Pass the Ammo, Traveller, Near Dark, and of course Private “Game Over” Hudson in Aliens. It is not essential, but it has its (Paxton and Feore) moments. For Paxton fans, Mean Dreams opens tonight (3/17) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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