Little Dixie (Action, Crime, Thriller) (2023)
Director: John Swab
Writer: John Swab
Stars: Frank Grillo, Annabeth Gish, Eric Dane, Beau Knapp
As an imprisoned high-profile cartel member is put to death by lethal injection, the Governor responsible for his imprisonment declares new measures against Mexican organised crime. This puts him and his associates directly in the crosshairs of the family cartel.
Often casting people previously worked with, including family and friends, John Swab casts Frank Grillo and Beau Knapp among others to provide a gritty action crime thriller featuring Grillo as a Special Forces veteran protecting his own interests. It was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and produced by Roxwell Films in association with Three Point Capital while distributed by Paramount Pictures.
Once an important cartel member is handed a death sentence through lethal injection, Governor Richard Jeffs (Eric Dane) initiates protocols to restrict and move against Mexican cartels. Unbeknownst to him, it’s those cartels providing substantial funds to his campaigns. Both the execution of a family member and statements made during a press conference are viewed as an act of hostility by the Prado Cartel and leader Lalo (Maurice Compte) looks to avenge those breaches of cooperation by sending half-brother Cuco (Beau Knapp) to America and handling this problem by any means necessary. At the same time, Jeffs distances himself from his enforcer Doc (Frank Grillo), trying to avoid further escalation, but Doc free of any ties discovers his daughter to be kidnapped and goes through any means necessary to keep him and his family safe.
More often than not, political thrillers are muddled with overabundant detail, John Swab provides an easy-to-understand corruption-based political crime film. Frank Grillo conditionally as the enforcer-type in a similar vein to ‘’John Wick’’ or ‘’The Equalizer’’ providing an unapologetic and severe crime thriller.
Through the simplified plot, set-up through Gish’s Billie and Grillo’s Doc trying to fathom the Governor’s indiscretions the film truly gets moving with a would-be shocking discovery by Doc, which is regrettably inadequately conferred since the characters to that point aren’t all-too interesting, a recurring problem throughout the feature.
From the quasi-political angle to the action, ‘’Little Dixie’’ comes across as shallow and uninspired. Performances are decent, especially compared to lower-budget independent films, yet when the scriptwriter and director prove not to understand themselves that’s an issue. Most of the prologue falls by the way-side once Grillo gets his John Wick groove on, with less choreography and more rigid gunplay and that’d be fine if it hadn’t acted like it was ever more than that. If anything it’s an adequately-paced film, watchable if you know what to expect.
It was a foregone conclusion that this Swab feature couldn’t beat the heavy hitters in the action genre, yet with a better script and a more direct approach there could’ve been some slight satisfaction.