Little Dixie has some small thrills amid going through the motions of its action premise.
Little Dixie (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on February 17, 2023
Rating 2.5 /5
Frank Grillo is once more in his element as another anti-hero of a gritty crime thriller. It’d be nice to say this is the stand-out one of his many direct-to-video action pictures, especially since you see Grillo going to town on a corrupt man with a chainsaw. As thrilling as that scene may be and how heavily it’s highlighted in the trailer, Little Dixie only adds little bells and whistles to a by-the-numbers action flick of cartels and revenge.
Grillo practically strolls through the role of Doc, a seasoned middle-man who keeps a secret alliance between a Mexican cartel and an American governor. He tries to maintain this alliance through tough talking, phone calls, and visits to both sides. This includes overlooking the drug operations and attending the public execution of a central cartel enforcer. The execution shakes up the alliance as the governor takes a stronger stance against the cartels. This shake-up soon leads to severing ties where Doc is thrown against his will into this war. Soon, his daughter is kidnapped by the cartel, and the killing increases, delivering on the promise of plenty of fists and guns.
There are some highlights worth noting in this picture beyond the scene of Grillo with a chainsaw (although that is pretty cool). The lack of monologuing during fights was welcomed, considering how meandering such dialogue could be in a film as stock as this one. Characters spend more time speaking with their guns than their mouths which is just as well for a routine revenge picture. I was also surprised how the cartel enforcer of Cuco has a bit more to him than just being the shade-wearing dude who kidnaps Doc’s daughter. His detour involves hanging out at a drag bar and picking up a drag queen for a one-night stand. I can’t exactly say I saw that coming in a movie like that. When that erotic aside wraps, however, the film gets back to its business as usual with showdowns amid a cartel villa.
As much as the film attempts to find something new outside of cliches, it still falls into a few familiar ones. Doc’s daughter, somewhat familiar with his work, fluctuates weirdly between an unflinching girl and a crying mess. This leads to such tonally unbalanced scenes as the girl taking charge by killing one of the gangsters and crying about having taken the shot when a few hours ago, she was talking back to Cuco about how he’s going to lose. It’s like she’s seen the script but still goes through the expected motions of her archetype anyway. Grillo also has to repeat the dusty exchange of being told to be careful and then giving the old “I know” style of answer. Secret assassinations and diner meetings arrive right on cue with little to break up the monotony of the lukewarm exposition for the cartel war to proceed.
Little Dixie has some small thrills amid going through the motions of its action premise. The acting is fine, and Grillo does about as well as one would expect for having weathered this type of role for years. He’s got it down to a science where it looks almost effortless to believe him as that short-fused, white-knuckled hitman whose past time is chewing people out over phones. It’s enough to make anybody frustrated that this guy deserves a better movie than another cartel romp where he gets to wield a chainsaw for a moment.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.