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Texas Heart

Small, independent films live a tough life:  raising production funds, spending them wisely, getting distribution, surviving us critics.  And, bless their hearts, the producers of “Texas Heart” certainly mean well with “Texas Heart,” but finding a script, casting it locally, shooting it, and then living through post-production, is hard and full of frustrations.

So when your end result is less than adequate – or perhaps quaintly adequate – there can be sorrow and heart-ache on the creators.  Director and cinematographer Mark David plays it safe with lots of close-up work – clear and in focus – but cannot make precious gold out of the fools-gold script of Nick Feild and Daniel Blake Smith.

When early-30s lawyer Peter (Erik Fellows) fails in his courtroom defense of a clearly psychopathic son of a demi-Mafia family in Miami, followed by the felon’s mother, Mrs. Smith (Lynn Shay), ordering his execution, he flees his girlfriend and ends up in a tiny Texas community, where his big-city ways mark him as an outsider on the run.

He immediately makes friends with brain-damaged Tiger (Kam Dabrowski), in his mid-teens, and his small dog.  But when Tiger’s football-playing high-school senior brother “steals” Tiger’s beautiful girlfriend, Alison (Daniela Bobadilla) (a non-starter; she’s only being kind to the slow-witted lad), and when the brother gets drunk at a post-game party and threatens her for not having sex with him, Alison disappears.  The small-town sheriff (Johnny Dowers), finding some bloody clothes in Tiger’s pick-up truck, arrests Tiger for her presumed murder, when suspicion might very well fall onto Alison’s alcoholic father (John Savage). 

Although Peter is undercover from certain killing by the Smith’s, he steps up to defend the innocent teen, and somehow is discovered by the evil one’s thugs.  But everything ends well (except for Peter’s girlfriend back in Florida who is executed by these not-nice men) for these folk and that’s the serious problem with this derisory script.

Small town folk are a sentimental meme in arts:  common-sense, down-to-earth folk who don’t trust city-slickers, God-fearin’ types who will always stand up for the down-trodden amongst them, etc.  And the script is just filled with those kinds of stereotypes, with cringe-inducing dialogue to go along with it. It is fruitless and David compounds it with some really stupid mistakes, such as the sign saying “Welcome to Texas” appearing as he is approaching what logically should say, “Bye-Bye to Texas.” 

The actors mostly do what they can to make their characters less comic-book habitués, with Dabrowski a standout.  Shaye makes the most of her evil looks and Fellows doesn’t disappoint too much with his superficial demeanor.

While not dreadful, this film is most definitely not for film cognoscenti, but should pass muster with undemanding audiences.  Pity it isn’t better.