Director: Shane Atkinson
Starring: John Magaro, Steve Zahn, Dylan Baker, Megan Stevenson, Matthew Del Negro, Brad Leland
From debutant feature director Shane Atkinson comes LaRoy - a flamboyantly titled film about an old Texan town, or more importantly, the odd events that are happening within it. In this black comedy crime flick, Ray (Magaro) discovers his wife has cheated on him, and, feeling as though his life is falling apart around him, decides he will commit suicide. However, his plans are thwarted at the last moment when he is mistaken for a hitman and finds himself in an interwoven web of lies, greed, lust, and more.
With more than a hint of the Coen brothers, LaRoy delivers a solid narrative with more than enough twists to keep it engaging, with the majority of the plaudits going to the uber-talented cast. Magaro is smartly cast as the chumpish Ray, so desperate for respect that he masquerades as a hitman, alongside strong performances from Steve Zahn and Dylan Baker - Zahn once again shows his acting talents in a meaty role and Baker is devilishly menacing, channelling his Trick ‘r Treat role from years prior, and the trio together add real quality to proceedings.
The story itself has more than enough to it to ensure it remains compelling, though, whilst it remained enjoyable, it is slightly bloated around the edges. The pacing was consistent but the runtime began to feel slightly stretched by the time we reach our tension-packed and bloody final sequences. Additionally, whilst the direction and Mingjue Hu’s overall cinematography is satisfying, LaRoy did look flat at times which did nothing to aid the drifting feeling two-thirds in. The music throughout - credited to Delphine Malaussena, Rim Laurens, and Clément Peiffer - on the other hand, is consistently strong.
LaRoy manages to take aspects of all of the genres it has been attached to, but it never really feels like any take centre stage. There are moments where the film is a full-on thriller (an early encounter between Baker’s hitman Harry and a stricken motorist exemplifies this excellently), at other moments the crime aspect takes over, and there are more than a few black comedy moments littered throughout - but as a whole, I couldn’t pinpoint which feels more relevant or suitable. That said, a mixed bag of genres isn’t a bad thing when the aspects are steadfastly pulled off as they are here in LaRoy.
It’s a solid feature film that hints at a stronger future ahead for Atkinson. The cast is great here, and the story itself is decent, it just isn’t consistently coherent throughout.
June 8th 2023