Dir: Glen Stephens
Star: C. Thomas Howell, Jason Connery, Mark Holton, Randy Spelling
The main moral to be drawn from this is that not all star names are equal. The cast here is pretty stellar, given the film’s burial in this box-set. As well as Howell, also present are Lin Shaye, Michael Madsen, Robert Carradine and even Dennis Hopper, but the bang for the buck varies dramatically. Hopper and Madsen might be sponsored by AT&T, they’re phoning in their roles to such an extent; Shaye is her usual reliable self, but isn’t given enough to do. Surprisingly, it’s Howell who comes off best, sinking his teeth into a nice, meaty role – “ham” being the meat in question – as Clayton, the foreman of an evil Texas ranch owned by the evil Brodrick clan, who abduct transients, force them into slave labour, and hves a nice sideline selling jerky as well, if you get my drift. Falling into their hands is Trevor (Connery), a Desert Storm vet who is now a drifter, after his marriage broke up.
The problems are multiple, mostly with a script that tries to hold too many irons in the fire, and ends up burning its own fingers. Trevor, for example, spends most of the first half drifting, and there are multiple other subplots, which never go anywhere, petering out in the middle of the film, like the whole immigrant/ICE sidelight. The tone is incredibly uneven, swinging wildly from near-camp to borderline grindhouse, such as a nasty sexual assault, which is positively sleazy in atmosphere. Hopper plays the local sherriff and Madsen a dubious entrepreneur, who’s trying to get at some property owned by Ma Brodrick (Shaye), by getting Clayton to turn against his employers and spill the beans. Or something like that. But the bits here that makes sense aren’t very interesting, and the bits that are interesting – not many of those – don’t make sense. Howell’s performance is not enough to save this.