Directed by John Sayles

Starring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Pena & Matthew McConaughey

This film is on the Best of 1996 list.

"Lone Star"

Opens: June 21, 1996 | Rated: R

At a leisurely two hours and 15 minutes, "Lone Star" could have been a deadly dull small town murder mystery. But this is a John Sayles film, and dull never enters the picture. He cares too much about his characters.

Exploring the lives of half a dozen people in a Texas border town, Sayles ties them all together in his script with the discovery of a skeleton in the desert that brings skeletons out of every closet in the sleepy little berg.

Sayles ties them all together too with his direction, with the camera lingering on faces and even on broad shots of empty rooms that invite the audience to look at the details.

With the liberal use of flashbacks, edited generally with shots panning from the present into the past in the same room, the character's lives and psyches are unraveled at the pace Sayles chooses -- never revealing too much all at once.

The film explores race relations, father and son relationships on several levels, bribery, incest, drugs, community tensions over how history should be taught, military base closures. Oh, and a 30-year-old murder of a ruthless, racist sheriff -- the main story.

The new sheriff (Chris Cooper), who is trying to fill his legendary father's shoes, is investigating the old murder and the more he digs, the more it looks like his father did the shooting.

The films one notable flaw, aside from being not entirely unpredictable, is that Sayles stays with a one of the many sub-plots for up to 10 minutes at a time, leading the to wonder when he'll get back to the fascinating murder.

Sayles draws remarkable performances from Cooper and Kris Kristofferson, who is so good as the mean ol' dead sheriff it's hard to believe it's really him.

Frances McDormand turn up in one memorable scene as Cooper's hyperactive ex-wife, Joe Morton is the new commander of the local military base who's estranged father runs the town's black nightclub and Elizabeth Pena is the long lost love interest. All of them shine.

©1996 All Rights Reserved.

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