I’m writing this a couple of days after watching the film, and I’m glad I let it settle a little bit before attempting to sum it up. I thought this was my first John Sayles film, but when I ranked it I discovered that I’ve actually seen one other one – The Secret of Roan Inish. Anyway, that one didn’t make a huge impression on me (and I don’t know that it’s really considered that much among his films, though someone could easily prove me wrong with my near total lack of John Sayles knowledge). My only knowledge of him at all really comes from his inclusion in one episode of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film, from which I got the accurate, I think, impression that he’s a filmmaker who cares about the in-between bits of real life that most films skip. From that I guessed that Lone Star wouldn’t be a straightforward western, as the cover made it look like, nor a straight-forward crime thriller, as the tagline tried to indicate.

We do start with a probable crime – a long-dead skeleton unearthed in the desert near a Texas border town who happens to be wearing a sheriff’s badge. The current sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) figures it’s Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson in flashbacks), the predecessor of his own predecessor, who was his father Buddy Deeds (a super-young Matthew McConaughey). Wade had a reputation as a terrible sheriff and a terrible man – guilty of all kinds of graft and corruption, especially against the town’s Mexican and black populations, and unpredictable to boot. Not only would he take your money, he might well shoot you in the back if he felt like it. In comparison, Buddy Deeds was a legend and a hero to the marginalized.