Directed by Anthony Pedone
Written by Anthony Pedone and Stephen Floyd
Starring James Paxton, Charlotte Best, Sam Dillon, J. R. Villarreal, Tony Cavalero
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
A ferocious and unrelenting coming-of-age film from writers Anthony Pedone and Stephen Floyd, An American in Texas takes its audience back to 1990, where life felt just as f*cked up as it does in 2017.
Tracking the unbreakable brotherhood of four teenage boys, who, along with being bandmates, share a more fundamental connection that manifests itself as a pure rage at the world around them. Playing angst-riddled grunge and punk, dropping acid, and gatecrashing local parties are some of the more socially acceptable endeavours they partake in. At the other end of their behavioural spectrum concerns a trunk full of animal masks, a collection of axes and a number of empty houses they decide to take out their frustrations on using violent vandalism. With the introduction of White Collar love interest Kara (Charlotte Best), the group's chaos and imminent adulthood leaves them completely vulnerable for what ensues.
Rarely does a film grab you by the balls and refuses to yield until its conclusion, but An American in Texas did just this to me and I'm still feeling the sting. It was an absolute adrenaline rush of a movie that captured something pure about the "cusp of manhood" experience, right down to the boiling fury that we all feel at one point whereby we want to tear something down and leave nothing in its place.
James Paxton brilliantly performs as Chad, lead singer and the boyfriend to Kara. His infrequent moments of romance are dangerously outweighed by his burning desire to get the hell out of his home town and make it as a musician. Sam Dillon is superb as the slightly unhinged Zac, a would be medic whose penchant for fireworks and narcotics is one of the many fantastic elements that make up this film. J. R. Villarreal plays Paul with a outstanding depth, a character consumed by his disillusionment with the state of the world. And Tony Cavalero as Billy is something you need to see to believe, but know that it is a phenomenal performance.
What was so impressive about the film was the masterful balance of so much noise and emotion, against a poignant political backdrop (the Gulf War) whereby American society was about to enter a notoriously divided sense of self, and views on the country's behaviour and values started to reveal themselves culturally. One particularly affecting scene involved a war veteran speaking to Billy and telling him not to believe everything they say about serving God and country. There is also a strong thread regarding consumerism and capitalism, and the town's looming plastic bag factory is a nightmarish presence for our protagonists.
The sound design and music in An American in Texas must be commended. It is a tour de force of broiling passion that suffocates the visuals when necessary, which is an immense achievement and the perfect accompaniment for a story depicting the experience of being a teenage boy angry at the world. Music is such a vital part of this film for so many reasons, and the audience are able to experience the visceral expression that is behind the artistry.
One of the best films indie films of the year, An American in Texas is a much needed journey of raging against the machine that is as topical as it is furious.
Watch the official Movie Trailer below...