Written and Directed by John Sayles
Starring Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena, Miriam Colon
John Sayles is one of America’s top independent filmmakers, especially in the 80s and 90s, when the wrote and directed a series of small films that focused on strong characters and unspectacular (though fascinating) situations. Lone Star was one of the best.
Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) is the county sheriff in a small town in Texas, following in the footsteps of his father Buddy (Mathew McConaughey). Sam had serious conflicts with his father and isn’t happy that the town is planning to name the courthouse for him. Buddy was universally regarded as a great man in town, who replaced the corrupt sheriff Charley Wade (Chris Kristofferson) after he disappeared with departmental funds. Sam also reconnects with Pilar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena), who he had been in love with, a union vehemently opposed by Buddy and Pilar’s mother Mercedes (Miriam Colon).
Things get complicated when a skeleton is found, leading to a long-ago murder that still affects the town today. As Sam investigates, he begins to uncover the seedier side of life in the town.
The acting is excellent. Cooper, of course, won an Oscar several years later and stands out as the cop with baggage who is trying to get to the truth in a town where people don’t want it discovered. Kristofferson is a spectacular presence as the swaggering and dangerous Wade and McConaughey is also memorable*. Elizabeth Pena also makes a strong character and it’s kind of refreshing to see a love plot featuring who aren’t in their twenties.
Sayles is a tremendous screenwriter, and it shows here. All the characters are well-drawn and the story keeps surprising. I especially liked the ending, which flies in the face of anything you might have expected.
*Despite their prominence in the advertising, they are both relatively small roles. No doubt they took it to work with Sayles.