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Saying goodbye to Bill Paxton in Mean Dreams

A Final Bow

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Dear Bill Paxton, you're a piece of shit. I mean this in the kindest, most gentle way a fanboy can mean it. The first time I ever took note of who you were was when you were a literal piece of shit. I shouldn't have to remind you of the role but just in case you've lost track in the 90-plus films you've acted in, you played Chet Donnelly — the cruel older brother in John Hughes' 1985 teen comedy Weird Science. At the end of the movie, you were turned into a giant turdball that ate flies, farted, and said such kind-hearted puns to your tortured younger brother like "I'm sorry Wyatt, sorry for being such a shit to you all these years."

I know that most folks know you from your work with James Cameron in The Terminator, True Lies, Aliens, and Titanic, and you deserve those accolades but, for me, it was Chet and a couple other things. You remember when you were in Kathryn Bigelow's horror/western movie Near Dark where you played that psychotic vampire drifter Severen? That was awesome! I loved that scene when you had just caught your prey and then you chuckled "Finger-licking good!" as you sucked your victim's blood off your fingers.

I went opening weekend to see that movie you directed and starred in with Matthew McConaughey, Frailty. That was awesome as well. You've always had a knack for great line deliveries. You've always been funny. You've always been cool. You've always been a badass. Always.

I apologize for the preceding three paragraphs of blatant verbal massage therapy, but I only mention this because I want to explain what brought me to watch Mean Dreams — one of your last films released only three weeks after you passed away. I had exhausted myself on "Game over, man!" memes and YouTube clips of some of your best work. Last week, when I randomly came across your mustachioed mug on the poster for the rural thriller, I figured, "I could use a little Paxton today."

I could tell by the film's description on IMDB that you likely had more of a supporting role than anything else but, still, I'll take whatever Pax I can get. Hope that doesn't sound too creepy, fanboy-ey or anything. Do you remember the movie? For the sake of this requiem/review, I'm going to pretend you don't.

As the camera floats through Americana landscapes during the film's opening credit sequence, it becomes obvious that this film is going to be visually striking and soaked in aural serenity. Then we meet Casey Caraway (Sophie Nélisse) and Jonas Ford (Josh Wiggins), two teenagers desperate to escape their respective home lives. Jonas' dad (Joe Cobden) runs a farm that is hardly breaking even. Still, he's nothing compared to Casey's intimidating, corrupt cop dad, Wayne (You). Before you know it, the two teens turn into lovers-on-the-lam. The next 90 minutes they hide from corrupt cops in a hotel room, engage in accidental violence, and exchange spit and secrets. Oops, I almost forgot to mention the old reliable duffle bag of cash they have been running around with while hiding from your character.

Truthfully, it felt like a well-worn Badlands-lite with slightly younger lovers. I hope it doesn't sound insulting, but I think I enjoyed this movie as a nice time-filler. It reminded me of that movie you talk about to friends when in the midst of idle chit-chat. You know the conversation where you'd say, "Hey, what'd you do last night?" and your friend would reply, "Ah I sat at the house then saw a movie with Bill Paxton in it. It was good. Not great. By the way, did I tell you I got a Roomba? Those things are pretty cool."

It was a beautiful enough film with some good performances, but its predictability kept it from being truly engaging.

You being in it was the main reason I watched it. You didn't disappoint. Truthfully, I'm not sure if I would have watched it if it weren't for the fact I was feeling a bit wistful.

Anyway, I won't keep you, Bill. I hope you're doing well in shit-kicker heaven.

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