In “Dallas 362,” troubled Rusty (Shawn Hatosy) literally yearns for Dallas, both the city and the guy who also shares that name (Scott Caan).
But Dallas, in both senses, is bad for Rusty.
The city is where his father died as a danger-lovin’ rodeo cowboy, which Rusty would also love to be. The boy Dallas is nothing but trouble for Rusty, constantly leading him astray and getting him into bar brawls. Rusty’s mother, Mary (Kelly Lynch), sends her son to her psychologist boyfriend, Bob (Jeff Goldblum), in wacky hopes of straightening him out. Meanwhile, Rusty is ever-more unhappy and confused about his life, as Dallas becomes involved in a life of crime that may eventually kill them both.
What’s a troubled kid to do?
Although there is nothing overtly gay in this film, written and directed by Caan, the son of actor James Caan, it’s really not so much of a stretch to read a queer subtext into all of this. The younger Caan was famously arrested in 1998 with a companion after a fight with two other men in a West Hollywood gay bar. Bar brawls are certainly a leitmotif in this film, from the boys’ initial meeting to a final clash, which has Rusty seriously questioning their friendship.
Rusty and Dallas to be sure have the inevitable, random girls hanging around them to receive an absent-minded kiss or insult every now and then, but their true devotion is undoubtedly for one another.
The script is laced with suggestive lines. “ You want to rent a movie and cuddle.” “Get off my dick!” And then, too, there is Dallas’ habit of suddenly plunking his head smack down on Rusty’s crotch, as if it were a beloved pillow.
Caan is also evidently a big fan of that uber classic of closeted queerdom, “Midnight Express,” which starred the late Brad Davis, who used the film as a way of becoming one of Hollywood’s first out homos. The 1978 film is referenced heavily throughout “ Dallas 362.”
This frustrating sexual piquancy, made all the more so by the serious physical attractiveness of both actors, is really the one thing the film has going for it, apart from Phil Parmet’s rich, autumn-hued cinematography. It’s too bad, then, that, instead of aiming for a ripe, all-out homoeroticism, Caan chickens out and decides to make the millionth, tired version of young, white guy angst, replete with “edgy” film technique––slo-mo, sped-up film, black-and white-expository photo montages––and whiny complaint rock music. (“You can’t save your friend/and when you fall apart/you will find your way.”)
Caan’s dialogue is so flat–– “You gotta do what you gotta do, I gotta do what I gotta do.” “Whatever it is you have to do, I support you emotionally”––that it completely defeats his mostly talented cast.
I say mostly because the cast includes one Val Lauren who, as a drugged-up loser, gives such an overwrought, bad performance, highly imitative of Joe Pesci but more grating than even that actor ever dreamed of being, that you actually root for seeing his character meet a violent end. Selma Blair is completely wasted as this horror’s girlfriend, who is fond of the bong and sports a wacky pair of heart-shaped flip-flops.