BEER FOR MY HORSES

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A return to the Shithouse? Why here? Why now?

The direct-to-video debut of a Toby Keith screenplay? With guest appearances by Mac Davis, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis, and Ted Nugent? You tell me.

“Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses”….A mantra of sorts?

Apparently, it’s a Toby Keith song, though I’ve never actually heard it. Whether the movie is actually inspired by the same tune is a different story, as I can’t imagine any country hit being in any way related to Mexican drug lords, shady bankers, and rescuing girlfriends kidnapped at gunpoint. That’s hip-hop’s territory.

Toby’s the star, right? Does he play a down-and-out country star looking for redemption?

Though it’s a stretch, Keith taps his inner Lee Strasberg to inhabit one Bill “Rack” Racklin, a deputy sheriff in a small Oklahoma town who plays hard, drinks even harder, and isn’t above blocking off his Thursdays for pig huntin’. When we first meet him, he’s answering a call at a trailer park, where the proverbial woman-in-a-bathrobe is screeching at her man for raising a ruckus in the driveway. One of these days, the cinema will construct a reason for white trash women to hate their men other than, “He never takes me anywhere!”

Toby’s pretty manly, I gather. What’s the tale of the tape?

47 years old, 6’4”, 250 pounds, all sumbitch. Though never shirtless, he is undoubtedly barrel-chested. Oddly, despite his astounding masculinity, the man never stops grinning. Ever. Even while telling Tom Skerritt to go fuck himself. And yet, Nugent has ‘em all beat. Fucker’s so tough he has his sheriff’s badge literally tattooed on his chest. What’s more, he was raised on an Indian reservation and summons “Cat Scratch Fever” on the soundtrack whenever he fires his weapon. And his name is Skunk. And he doesn’t utter a word of dialogue until the final scene, where he matter-of-factly intones, “Circus Jolly.”

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“Circus Jolly”? Dare I ask?

It’s a hard liquor that tastes like elephant piss, though it’s been known to inspire great acts of derring-do. It can be found among carnies in a Texas border town, and is usually bottled in jugs for easy transport. The community in question is led by Charlie (Willie Nelson), who first appears in a run-down truck filled to the brim with pot smoke, just in case that joke didn’t wear itself out around 1980.

Don’t get ahead of yourself, now. What the hell’s the story?

Rack and his fellow deputies have a shootout with some Mexican drug lords, who are pushing meth into a once clean, god-fearin’ Okie hamlet. Tito, the kingpin, is arrested and thrown in the slammer, though not before a healthy beating. While Rack and his men were bravely staking out the fertilizer warehouse for hours, they may never have found their man unless he had been kind enough to be the one person in the area to dress like Tony Montana. Naturally, Rack saw the wide-collared, flaming red silk shirt and gargantuan medallion and fired tried and true into the Oklahoma night. Tito, always called “the Mexican” by Rack and never by his actual name, has a brother in Mexico who, upon learning of the arrest, sends his men to kidnap Rack’s girlfriend as ransom for Tito’s return. Though labeled a comedy, the film turns deadly serious at the halfway point, and the bodies start piling up. Not even the truck stop hooker can bring back the laughs.

What do we learn about Toby Keith’s Oklahoma?

Surprisingly, cops like donuts. Especially bear claws. Second, any random drive about town will produce several scantily-clad, busty chicks washing their cars. Third, “seeing a movie” involves driving to another town at least two hours away. Last but not least, the easiest way to get an Oklahoma broad into the sack is to offer her a corn dog.

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We know Toby Keith hates him some A-rabs. Hates ‘em like poison. Any other prejudices on display?

Besides reducing Mexicans to tacky music, drug-pushing, and being all-too-easy to bribe, Keith’s screenplay equates big city life with crime, corruption, and dark skin. Even his girlfriend had to return from Chicago because “the pace was too fast.” In addition, Toby hates the government. District attorneys and judges are pussies and cocksuckers, and are always using “the law” to make sure criminals are protected. Blacks don’t escape the lash, either, and are attacked most crudely during a rest stop bathroom scene. Several menacing-looking black youths surround Rack while he tries to take a piss, but quickly scatter when he pulls out his gun. They return, however, when Rack’s partner starts singing in his stall. Within seconds, they start harmonizing like a proper minstrel show. In a shocking turn, not a single black man is shot or does any shooting himself. Maybe there’s hope, after all.

Still, Toby has an eye for the ladies, does he not?

Indeed, though Gina Gershon exits the movie before making out with a biker chick. The best scene occurs when Rack and his crew are driving down to Mexico and they encounter one of those standard cars of the movies; you know, the convertible ones teeming with big-titted college girls who suck on lollipops and bare their chests with each blow of the horn. While they flirt like the whores they are (and the camera focuses on the one wearing a shirt that says, “Farm Hands Feel Better”), we hear a song grind away on the soundtrack with the lyrics, “You got two fun bags, show them to me.” And oblige, they do.

Is there a climactic shootout in Mexico?

Would Toby take us all this way without a little bloodletting? Interestingly, an earlier murder took place off-screen, making me think the whole thing was trying to be a family film. They’d go far, but not too far. Once they cross the border, chaos ensues. And it’s not just the hordes of little ninos selling chicklets. It’s not exactly Peckinpah, but it’s pretty gritty. Interestingly, white skin acts as a bulletproof vest, and only dirty Mexicans die on the floor of Rusty’s Cantina. And then the farting dog saves the day. Just as it should be.

And what’s with all those fucking previews on the DVD? And the Toby Keith infomercial?

For some reason, Toby yammers on for what seemed like an hour — again, before the movie even started — taking us through the “making of” portion, as well as selling Ford trucks. After that, no fewer than eight previews popped up, all of which were similarly straight-to-DVD. I’m glad I didn’t scan through them, though, as I never would have heard about Bait Shop, the world’s first “professional bass fishing comedy.” Starring Billy Ray Cyrus. And so begins Barack Obama’s America.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52