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White River


White River

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When it comes to filmdom's proud history of country-fried comedies about lovable scamps hightailing it across the open road with Johnny Law in hot pursuit, certain figures stand out as legends: Reynolds, Eastwood, Clyde The Orangutan. Two names seldom associated with genre are Antonio Banderas and Bob Hoskins, the miscast, mismatched stars of White River, a bewilderingly awful, proudly lowbrow buddy comedy about two supposedly endearing low-rent con-men who make mischief and break hearts in backwoods Arkansas. Making his second direct-to-video appearance this year (following the puzzling religious thriller The Body), Banderas plays an illegal alien pretending to be a lawyer who partners with Hoskins, a portly huckster whose faux-cleric's garb hides a mind more concerned with exploitation than salvation. Hopping from town to town in search of easy money, the hapless pair meets up and travels with small-town waitress Kim Dickens and her homicidal boyfriend (Wes Bentley), whose predilection for mass murder the film inexplicably treats like a mild quirk, like riding a unicycle or collecting Confederate money. Along the way, the unlikely and unlikable quartet encounters countless grating, stereotypical hicks, most notably Dickens' mother Swoosie Kurtz, who deserves an award for simply surviving a role that requires her to wear a giant Elvis wig and behave like a speed-addled chimp. The beginning of a good idea surfaces as Hoskins and Banderas internalize the nobler values of the professions they're impersonating, but the filmmakers are far too concerned with giving hillbillies of all types (toothless, shirtless, toothless-and-shirtless) a comic ribbing to develop it fully. Even supporting player Roger Clinton, who pops up for a brief cameo that does little to disprove his standing as the Billy Carter of his generation, deserves better.