John Sayles directs this complex and finely detailed drama about a Texas border town and the people who live there. The film opens with the discovery of a skeleton in the desert, which may be the 40 year old remains of the evil Sheriff Charley Wade (Kris Kristofferson), who disappeared without a trace. The current sheriff, Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) has suspicions that his father, the legendary Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) may have been involved. Meanwhile, tensions are growing within two other families in the town of Frontera. Colonel Delmore Payne (Joe Morton) returns to town, but can’t seem to reconcile relationships with either his father (Ron Canada) or his son. And Pilar (Elizabeth Pena) attempts to rekindle an old high school romance with Sheriff Wade, while her mother (Miriam Colon) can’t seem to understand the younger generation. The separate stories at first seem disconnected and disjointed, yet director Sayles weaves these disparate threads into a wonderful tapestry. After seeing the film, it is amazing how layered and detailed the plot and characters are. The film does have its flaws. Cooper comes off rather flat as the central character. He never quite conveys much emotion, and as a result is rather bland for a lead role. The film also gets a bit preachy at times on the subject of revisionistic history. But these flaws can be forgiven. The remainder of the cast is superb. Kristofferson is villainy incarnate. McConaughey displays a glimpse of the reserve that made his sheriff a local legend. Sayles manages to capture the flavor and essence of Frontera, and convey it in this film. Overall, it is a well crafted work.
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