Lone Star (1996) starring Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Peña, Joe Morton, Ron Canada directed by John Sayles Movie Review

Lone Star (1996)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Chris Cooper in Lone Star (1996)

Some Bad Deeds

Whilst searching an old firing range at Fort McKenzie for old bullets two off duty soldiers discover a skeleton and a rusty sheriff's badge leading them to call in the sheriff of Rio County, Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper). Sam suspects that the body is that of a former sheriff, Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson) who was notoriously corrupt but Sam also suspect that his father, former sheriff Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) may have been behind Charlie's murder although there are those who feel Buddy is a local legend and Sam is just bitter over his relationship with his late father. Whilst this is going on Sam finds himself back in touch with his college sweetheart Pilar (Elizabeth Peña) who is having trouble as a teacher as there are opposed to what she is teaching. And then there is Colonel Delmore Payne (Joe Morton) who has just taken charge of the Fort whose father is Otis "Big O" Payne (Ron Canada), the owner of a local nightclub except they have become estranged due to Otis's womanizing when Delmore was a child.

"Lone Star" is the third John Sayles movie I have watched and like the other movies it draws you in and keeps you watching with a storyline which is full of intrigue. It also has drama and romance but it is the intrigue which draws you in starting with the discovery of a skeleton and the sheriff's badge on a shooting range. We are fed this storyline which suggests that the popular former sheriff Buddy may have killed the previous sheriff Charlie whilst also hinting at the current sheriff Sam not only having had a troubled relationship with his father but living in a community where many idolized him. But that is just the lead up and then we are introduced to some subplots as we have Pilar who had once been Sam's sweetheart whilst we also have the estranged relationship of Otis and Delmore. You wonder whether they are just padding but then begin to realise that they are all linked together as each element is filled out such as discovering that both Buddy and Pilar's mum objected to Same and Pilar's relationship.

Elizabeth Peña in Lone Star (1996)

Now I am going to say quite simply that in another director's hands "Lone Star" could have ended up a melodramatic mess because without giving anything away the way the storylines end up coming together it could be seen as not only contrived but melodramatic. But Sayles manages this intriguing drama beautifully so through the way the stories flow and he incorporates flashbacks the seemingly amazing way it connects is easy to accept and helps to make it fascinating. In fact Sayles does such a good job that the few bits which are predictable such as the inevitable confrontation between Delmore and Otis are fascinating and you wait for them to come with expectations of more intrigue and revelations.

Part of what makes "Lone Star" so good is the perfect casting of actors who don't feel the need to shout or holler to make their presence felt. Chris Cooper is the perfect example of which because he plays Sam as a man going about his business handed an opportunity to show the community what his dad was really like, but he doesn't make him full of revenge, just a man with a job to do. It is the same throughout be it Elizabeth Peña as the attractive Pilar or Joe Morton as Colonel Payne.

What this all boils down to is that "Lone Star" is one of those movies which draws you in with a fascinating storyline which is beautifully tangled and surprises you not only with the outcome but also in how director John Sayles makes contrived work so brilliantly.