Coming Soon: The Rodeo Thief (2020) - Reviewed

Brett Bentman and his cinematic outlaws return with a new entry in his Texas Noir trilogy.  The Rodeo Thief is a quick paced thriller that blends the familial drama of 90 Feet from Home with the nail-biting heist shenanigans of Copper Bill.  The result is yet another masterful addition to Bentman's dust choked universe of cowboys, thieves, and mythological killers.  Featuring an outstanding central performance by Thom Hallum, vibrant naturally lit cinematography, and a surprising human undercurrent, this is one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences of the year.  

Boone, an injured bull rider, is supplementing his income to care for his mother by working as muscle for a dangerous loan shark.  As his personal life begins to evolve, Boone agrees to one last score to guarantee his family's future and of course, nothing is what it seems.  Bentman's script bifurcates the gangster world and the cowboy ethos, with Hallum's Boone serving as a bridge.  One of the most striking details is in how the two worlds physically differ.  Anthony Guitierrez's adaptive cinematography captures the criminal underworld in dingy greens and blues while the "lawful" world of the riders is filmed using most natural light and expansive outdoor locations.  Hallum looms within both, a specter of a man trying to both cling to what he once was and create something for the future.  This is the heart of The Rodeo Thief.  Much akin to The Wild Bunch and Blood Meridian there is a pervasive understanding that the ways of old are dying, and Hallum's performance is a totem of this concept. 

Rounding out the cast are Bentman regular's Billy Blair and Tom Zembrod.  Blair delivers yet another hilarious turn as a debtor who runs afoul of Boone while Zembrod forms part of the brotherhood of cowboys that are the foundation of the story.  Robert Keith gives a menacing, yet childlike turn as the loan shark.  His rants are one breath shy of satire, making his insinuations even more deadly, as he chews through the scenery every time he appears. Sam Marra gives a delightfully annoying performance as Boone’s new partner, a foil whose toxic chemistry with Hallum is nefarious perfection, ensuring that bloodshed is soon to come. Nadirah Shakir is the anchor as Boone's love interest Brenda, who serves as the audience’s conduit, a civilian who understands the rules, but not the terrifying nuance.  Jim Burleson is the final ingredient.  His performance as Boone's incarcerated uncle is both heartbreaking and perfectly at home within the denim potboiler of Bentman's design.  His scene with Hallum crackles with memorable dialogue and an ominous understanding of the criminal's plight.  

Coming soon to digital on demand, The Rodeo Thief is yet another example of the power of independent film making.  Bentman's impressive command is on display in virtually every aspect of this film, however it is the subtle (and not so subtle) threads that bind his recent films together that truly allow Thief to shine.  While 90 Feet from Home was a meditation on revenge and family and Copper Bill was more carefree with its violence and story, The Rodeo Thief is the happy medium, building upon these concepts and installing them within Bentman's framework of a Texas consumed by greed, financial ruin, and violence.  As the credits begin to roll, the viewer can't help to but to hunger for what this team of indie rogues have in store for us next. 

--Kyle Jonathan