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SXSW capsule review: ‘Hellion’

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Man, between the meth-dealing, Beaumont biker gangs in HBO’s “True Detective” and the bleak suburban landscape of Port Neches and Groves in Kat Candlers’ “Hellion,” that hunk of Southeast Texas is really taking it on the chin this season. I look forward to the ads from the Chamber of Commerce. “Southeast, Texas: We Swear It’s Not That Bad (Please Ignore Vidor).”

Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins, making his feature-length debut) loves heavy metal and motorcross and not much else (besides his younger brother Wes, played by newcomer Deke Garner).

His father Hollis (Aaron Paul, excellent) is still in deep mourning. He’s not a bad man, but he’s a serious drinker, remains obsessed with building a house in Galveston that the family is unlikely to use and has no idea how to be a parent (it is implied that he almost abandoned his kids to the state soon after his wife’s passing).

When the state intervenes and hand Wes over to their late mother’s sister Pam (Juliette Lewis), Jacob and Hollis must figure out a way to co-exist.

Candler delivers a strong sense of place and character, with shots filled with refineries one moments and dirt tracks the next, all muted colors and damp air and kids left to their own devices (still, I refuse to believe there are that many 13-year old fans of The Sword). The relationship between Hollis, Jacob and Wes, their fragile interdependence, is the movie’s tough heart.

“Hellion” shows 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Topfer Theatre.