After delivering a one-two punch with “The Seducers Club” and “Stay Low” in the spring with City Arts Center, local filmmaker Mickey Reece returns with a third: “Punch Cowboy.”
The feature debuts Saturday night, with The Workweek’s Carly Gwin performing beforehand as a musical guest.
While Reece’s movies jump from genre to genre — sometimes within the same film, as is the case here — one string is a constant: unpredictability. You never can quite peg where they’re headed with pinpoint accuracy, and the ride down the roads of the unfamiliar is part of what makes his work so fresh and alive.
“Punch Cowboy” begins as a family drama, with hard right turns into the mob comedy and kung fu. (You read correctly.) Its protagonist is Billy “Blue Eyes” Hatch (James Paulgrove), a country ballad come to life, seeing as how he has no wife (she died) or reliable transportation (it broke). He does have a young son, Henry (Logan Staggs), who’s a voracious reader and mature beyond his years. Sadly, Billy takes his grief out on the boy, dishing out corporal punishment for the kid’s crime of looking at a photo of his mother.
Seeing to remedy his miserable world, Billy fixes to fix his truck, so he can venture into the city and find “a new mama for muh boy.” Since Henry’s too young to leave home alone, Billy reaches out to his decadeestranged brother, Dean (Kameron Primm), a washed-up hair-metal guitarist who attempts to bond with his “little dude” nephew by asking, “You ever heard of GWAR? Dying Fetus?” The “crazy uncle” situation has the makings of your basic oil-andwater comedy, but Reece is more interested in following Billy, who runs afoul of cartoony crime boss Willie Martinez (Sean Thomasson) and his goons by aiding damsel Belle (Rebecca Cox) in her time of distress. That also leads to a showdown with Martinez’ on-call I Scream Brothers and a battle of no-wits with Belle’s wannabe rapper brother, Philly D (Dallos Paz).
That last character provides a surprising amount of humor, but other elements pop up in unexpected places, such as a scene that calls for Billy to become an action hero, giving the film’s title a dual meaning. And oddly, all are in service to the story; Reece even uses the montage to the narrative’s advantage, rather than as a mid-movie music video. Speaking of music, Starlight Mints’ Allan Vest and Student Film’s Justin Rice contribute a score that’s as sparse as the Hatches’ rural home, helping weave a fable vibe into the work.
If it’s a little too much to swallow that Billy wouldn’t know what rap was, or that Dean’s wig is too over-the-top, it’s understandable … and forgivable, because just like Reece’s recent output, “Punch Cowboy” is neither amateur nor cookie-cutter.