The eponymous protagonist of Gyllenhaal's rather superb first feature is a repellent, racist loan-shark (played to the tight-lipped hilt by Hopper) who rules the roost in a late '40s Southern community. When a young black (Ware) welshes on the agreement after borrowing money to buy a car, Trout dispenses the only kind of justice he feels comfortable with; then, confronted by his wife (Hershey) about his crime, he starts down a road to total insanity by first humiliating, then subjecting her to horrible sexual abuse. Pete Dexter's script from his own novel is tough, often disturbing stuff, with a whiff of small-town Southern life that takes in everything from a John Lee Hooker TV commercial to William Faulkner and Harper Lee. Sometimes the pace is as slow as watching cotton grow, but at others the rage and bigotry on Hopper's face spills out dreadfully across the screen. Excellent performances from Hopper, Hershey and Ed Harris (as Hershey's lawyer-lover), some languorous photography from Robert Elswit, and a package of big issues inside a small frame, make this a film not to be missed.
Cast and crew
Dennis Hopper Barbara Hershey Ed Harris Ray McKinnon Tina Lifford Darnita Henry Eric Ware RonReaco Lee Gary Bullock