Beer for My Horses might be the worst movie I've ever seen. That's not something I take lightly either -- critics are just as capable of negative hyperbole as they are positive. But when a film like Horses fails so completely on just about every level but the technical (the cinematography, not the acting), it's hard not to begin racking one's brain, trying to come up with a title that's more of a beating than Horses. I can't, for one second, think why anyone -- fan of Toby Keith's or not -- would want to subject themselves to this 85-minute trudge through cinematic hell.
Country star Toby Keith, who fancies himself something of a one-man entertainment factory, has branched out beyond his abilities in recent years, dabbling in acting (he debuted in the also-forgettable 2006 flick Broken Bridges), while also keeping up a record label, a recording career, budding restauranteur-ism, a rabid love of the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team and endless touring. Add to this a peculiar meat-head tendency to speak bluntly (remember his contretemps with the Dixie Chicks) and write simple-minded songs that mostly repeat variations on a boorish theme (vacationing in Mexico, drinking a lot) and you've got one of Nashville's biggest stars. Hoo-ray.
Based upon -- I kid you not -- one of Keith's numerous hit songs, Horses is a weird, stitched-up action-comedy that strains to incorporate cameos from Willie Nelson and Gina Gershon, but hardly does any justice to the cast assembled: Tom Skerritt, Barry Corbin, Curtis Armstrong, Claire Forlani and, curiously, Ted Nugent all pass before the camera. Keith co-wrote the screenplay (such as it is) with fellow Oklahoman and comic Rodney Carrington, who has a supporting role as goofball deputy Lonnie Freeman.
The plot, which has absolutely nothing to do with the song itself (did inspiration spring from the so-vague-as-to-be-meaningless line "We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds"?), is simplistic cheese: Johnson County, Okla. deputy sheriff Joe Bill "Rack" Racklin (Keith) is just a good 'ol boy who pals around with buddy Lonnie, helping keep their tiny town free of crime. (Although set in, and annoying making frequent mentions of, Oklahoma, the film was shot in New Mexico. Way to jump-start the Oklahoma film industry, Toby.)
As Rack's girlfriend Cammie (Gershon, in a mercifully brief bit) leaves him at the film's beginning, his ex Annie (Forlani) conveniently returns. It's not long before vicious drug lord Manuel Garza (Carlos Sanz) has kidnapped her, dragging her across the border to Mexico as he demands the release of his recently arrested brother. Being the hot-headed, do-it-yourself type, Rack defies orders, rounding up Lonnie and fellow deputy Skunk (Nugent) to head south and rescue the damsel in distress.
Never mind the painfully wooden acting, the shameless shilling for Keith's sponsor company Ford, the rote quality of the action sequences -- country music video director Michael Salomon makes an inauspicious feature film debut -- or the atrociously crappy, predictable screenplay. (No, really - I stand in awe of the Carrington bathroom-singing sequence.) Keith and Carrington also manage to work in some good 'ol redneck xenophobia, as Keith frequently refers to Garza as "the Mexican" in the nastiest tone imaginable and even Corbin has a rancid aside late in the film. It adds a layer of scum to an already ugly film; Horses is bad enough without injecting racism into it.
No one gets out alive in Horses, least of all the viewer. Once the credits roll and you taste the blissful freedom from mind-warpingly bad cinema, you'll have learned a valuable, if potentially damaging, lesson. If you ever see the words "Toby Keith" and "movie" in the same sentence, run as far away, as fast as you can.
While the filmmakers didn't exactly spring for top-shelf screenwriters (... or anything else, really), they at least make sure their cinematic turd looked good. Beer for My Horses arrives on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, opened up slightly from its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Colors are vivid, while crisp detail and hardly any video noise or other glaring visual defect distracts from the pain of watching Keith act.
As with the visuals, the aural end of things isn't too shabby either. A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that has plenty of opportunities for an active sound field (gun fights, explosions, spirited shouting) boasts plenty of detail and never overwhelms the awesomely horrible dialogue. An optional Dolby 2.0 stereo track is included, as are optional Spanish subtitles. (Oh, the irony.)
The 10 minute, 43 second featurette "The Good and Bad People of Mangum, OK" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) takes a look at the characters and the actors who play them, while the 10 minute, 24 second featurette "Songwriter to Screenwriter" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) allows Keith to pat himself on the back for being such a good widdle scweenwiter. The six minute featurette "CMT on Set" (presented in fullscreen) is essentially an interview with host Katie Cook and Keith; an astonishing seven minute, 34 second blooper reel (isn't the whole flick a blooper reel?) is presented in fullscreen, along with a one minute, 35 second trailer for Broken Bridges (presented in fullscreen). A six minute, 37 second advertise -- excuse me, "video and message from Ford Trucks and Toby" (presented in fullscreen) wraps up the disc.
Beer for My Horses might be the worst movie I've ever seen. That's not something I take lightly either -- critics are just as capable of negative hyperbole as they are positive. But when a film like Horses fails so completely on just about every level but the technical (the cinematography, not the acting), it's hard not to begin racking one's brain, trying to come up with a title that's more of a beating than Horses. I can't, for one second, think why anyone -- fan of Toby Keith's or not -- would want to subject themselves to this 85-minute trudge through cinematic hell. Skip it.