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Dallas 362

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Dallas 362

Director: Scott Caan
Runtime: 100 minutes
Cast: Shawn Hatosy, Scott Caan, Kelly Lynch
Every bit the son of James Caan, actor Scott Caan looks a bit like a cinder block with legs, and he's been cast accordingly, occupying small roles as meaty, pugnacious brawlers in films like Gone In 60 Seconds and Ocean's Eleven. For this reason, it might have been reasonable to expect little from his directorial debut, Dallas 362, which premièred to zero fanfare near the end of the 2003 Toronto Film Festival, and is now staggering into a limited theatrical run two full years later, when there's no buzz left to be extinguished. But looks can be deceiving: From the combustible opening-credits sequence, Caan displays a whip-crack sense of timing, pace, and energy that's so rare for a first-time filmmaker that it's tempting to call him a savant. In many ways, his story of young screw-ups at a crossroads seems old hat, plucked heavily from films like Mean Streets, Swingers, and Good Will Hunting, but Caan keeps his foot on the gas and plays every scene with vitalizing conviction.

Dallas 362 kicks off with what has become a familiar scene in the lives of two L.A. knuckleheads: Hauled off in cuffs after instigating one of their biweekly bar fights, Shawn Hatosy and Caan get bailed out by Hatosy's mother Kelly Lynch, who chides the boys while knowing full well that the routine will repeat itself. Though years removed from his Texas home, where his cowboy father died on the rodeo circuit, Hatosy still feels like an outsider in his adopted city, so he gloms onto his best friend Caan, an agreeable goof who collects gambling debts for a small-time gangster. As Caan embarks on a harebrained robbery scheme with a partner he's never met, Hatosy starts thinking seriously about his future, coaxed along by his mother's new boyfriend, a spaced-out psychiatrist played by Jeff Goldblum.

Though he has a particularly sharp ear for barroom dialogue, which often sounds like the mimeographed exchanges of young drunks on the verge of passing out, Caan distinctly fashions his script around his characters, from the staccato shorthand between himself and Hatosy to Goldblum's lazy drawl. Some of the jokes are written, but others arise from a punchy snap in the editing. If nothing else, Dallas 362 is a lesson in cutting to the quickâ€"it's as stripped of fat as Caan's physique. A few miscues keep it from greatness, including a broadly played, nasal Jewish gambler (Val Lauren) and an ending where the rite-of-passage clichés finally catch up. But by then, Caan's gifts are readily apparent, at least for anyone who bothers to take notice.

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