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LAROY

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by Shane Atkinson

grade: 7.5

LaRoy is a fictional Texas town that, while experiencing the contemporary financial crisis, seems to us to be almost a timeless place, where modern technology is given as little space as possible and where bizarre cowboy hats still seem to succeed in giving hilarious characters some credibility. Or, at least, that is what the wearers believe. At the Viennale 2023.

Accidental Killer

Definitely a pleasant surprise within the program of the Viennale 2023, LaRoy, the newest feature directed by U.S. director Shane Atkinson, as well as the result of a co-production between Austria, France and the United States. Yes, because, in fact, in this postmodern western with its black humor and sometimes slapstick character, the filmmaker has, yes, entertained his audience, but he has also, at the same time, drawn a ruthless and exhaustive portrait of the modern-day United States, heavily influenced by the pressing financial crisis.

The story staged in LaRoy, then, is that of the young and naive Ray (played by John Magaro), who by chance discovers that his wife Stacy-Lynn (Megan Stevenson) is cheating on him. The moment he decides to take his own life, however, a mysterious man, mistaking him for someone else, asks him to kill someone in his place in exchange for money. How should he handle this unexpected, bizarre situation? Soon our Ray will be joined by the clumsy private detective Skip (Steve Zahn), who also intends to find out what lies behind the unusual request.

LaRoy, then, is a fictional Texas town, which, while experiencing the contemporary financial crisis, seems to us to be almost a timeless place or, better yet, a place where time seems to have stood still, where modern technology is given as little space as possible, and where bizarre cowboy hats still seem to succeed in giving hilarious characters some credibility. Or, at least, that is what the wearers believe.

Particularly noteworthy in this regard are the characters (often over the top and deliberately stereotyped) and, specifically, the two protagonists, who have become friends despite themselves and who find themselves on an apparently illogical adventure. Ray is deeply in love with his wife and would do anything to realize her dream of opening a beauty salon. She, however, with her forced smiles and impeccable looks, seems to want to devote all her affection to someone else. Skip, on the other hand, eager to assert his own identity and investigative skills even – and especially – when confronted with some of the local cops who constantly taunt him, proved to be the real workhorse of LaRoy, a character who undoubtedly deserves to be remembered by the viewer for a long, long time.

Shane Atkinson, for his part, has proved to be particularly skilled in creating a balanced mix of past and present, treasuring what was already realized in the past years, but at the same time creating an entertaining and well-written feature film that is distinguished first and foremost by its own, marked personality and a good pace that is maintained from beginning to end. LaRoy has already become a cult favorite in the context of the Viennale 2023. And such films, as we know, are always needed anyway.

Original title: LaRoy
Directed by: Shane Atkinson
Country/year: Austria, France, USA / 2023
Running time: 112’
Genre: comedy, crime, thriller
Cast: John Magaro, Steve Zahn, Dylan Baker, Galadriel Stineman, Mattew Del Negro, Brad Leland, Bob Clendenin, Megan Stevenson, Emily Pendergast, Alex Knight, Rio Alexander, Darcy Shean, Mimi Fletcher, Teagan Ireland, Vic Browder, Brannon Cross, Marion Birdsall, Brooks Hall
Screenplay: Shane Atkinson
Cinematography: Mingiue Hu
Produced by: Adastra Films, Ellly Films, Next, Flote

Info: the page of LaRoy on iMDb; the page of LaRoy on the website of the Viennale