Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rowdy Stovall's 'Mexican Sunrise' a taut, suspenseful film

I first heard about Rowdy Stovall and his film Mexican Sunrise in 2005 from Tom Copeland, who was in the process of retiring as Texas' longtime film commissioner.  Copeland raved about Stovall’s potential as a filmmaker and about the skill he saw in Mexican Sunrise. All these years later I finally got to watch the film that Stovall is shepherding about Texas to select theaters in a newish cut. I can see what Copeland meant. Mexican Sunrise is a taut tale whose border-town night gone wrong premise grew out of Stovall’s years spent teaching and surfing in Mexico. Before that he played football at Stephen F. Austin State University.

The film brings to mind the Mexican road trip that a pair of horny teenage boys take in Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show, only ten times more deadly. In Stovall’s version, a group of buddies take off to a border town for a bachelor party. Prostitutes, free-flowing booze and good times await. But one of the guys has a nasty secret—he’s racked up a big debt to an unforgiving Mexican drug lord and his buddies must pay the price.

The nonlinear opens with the screams of one of the men who appears to be buried alive. As the film unspools, we get the grisly truth. Shot in Austin and Mexico, Mexican Sunrise rings true and the acting is solid. It'll make you squirm in your seat. Like a first love, Stovall admits that he can’t help trying to introduce his first feature film to new audiences. The film is a keeper. Now it’s time to see what comes next from this creative force that Copeland rightly predicted is a name to keep an eye on.

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