Tribeca Film Festival 2023: LAROY A Fun Twisty Tale Of Murder, Blackmail And Mistaken Identity


A case of mistaken identity – in this instance, small town hardware store manager Ray being confused for an out-of-town contract killer – sets off an escalating chaine of incidences and revelation of secrets in writer/director Shane Atkinson’s debut feature film, the dark comedy LaRoy.

Ray (John Margo) is a rather schluby manager of a small Texas town hardware store he co-owns with his older brother Junior. After finding out his wife Stacey-Lynn (Megan Stevenson) is cheating on him from the town’s local private investigator Skip (Steve Zahn), he decides to end it all. Purchasing a pistol, Ray intends to shoot himself in the head in the parking lot of the sleazy motel where Stacey-Lynn has been having her illicit trysts. But before he can go through with the act, he is interrupted by a man in a pickup who mistakes him for a contract killer whom he has only spoken to on the phone. Intrigued by the bag of money and name that has been literally deposited into his lap, Ray decides to follow the would-be victim to see why someone wants that man dead. He slowly discovers a web of lies, infidelity and blackmail, and when the none-too-pleased hitman (Dylan Baker) arrives, things only get worse.

A twisty-turny tour through a small Texas town’s underbelly, Atkinson’s film feels more than a little inspired by the works of the Joel and Ethan Cohen, though he doesn’t let things get as boarderline cartoonishly huge as the Cohen’s do in their crime comedies. Instead, there is an element of humanity that grounds his leads from Ray to his wife Stacey-Lynn to detective Skip. All three have various forms of inner sadness that are revealed to drive their decisions. Atkinson’s script gives his actors some meat to work with and they make a real meal of things. Dylan Baker’s hit-man essentially opens the story and establishes a menacing aura that suffuses the rest of the film, making him a menacing presence even long before he shows up in town. Stevenson’s philandering spouse drips with such disrespect for her husband Ray that she barely musters up the energy to give even the laziest of excuses as she readies herself to leave the house to meet up with her lover at the sleazy motel, hilariously named the Velvet Saddle, across town. Brad LeLand turns in a near scene-stealing as a brash car dealership owner, while Darcy Shean surprises us as his wife in a scene that reverses what we have seen of her character before while generating a sympathetic bound between her and Ray.

But the real spine of the movie is in the relationship between Ray and Skip. The pair form an unlikely team, and while on its surface, the pairing could read as a standard buddy comedy duo but Margo and Zahn really put some depth into their characters. Ray’s sadness isn’t just fueled by the fact that his wife has cheated on him, but partly because he can’t stop caring about her, even as the details of her infidelity come into focus. Zahn’s Skip is desperately trying to not see that the difference between what he thought the life of a private detective would be like and the reality of shadowing people to seedy motels at the behest of cuckolded spouses. When he realizes the depth of trouble that Ray is in, he sees his ticket to the big time, or at least a modicum of respect from the local law enforcement who go out of their way to harass him. Margo and Zahn’s chemistry here really drive the film towards its almost inevitable conclusion, and leaves the audience wanting to see more of this pairing in the future.

LaRoy Steve Zahn

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About Rich Drees 7211 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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