Bill Paxton (1955–2017): Requiem for the Sheriff of Star City
We’re in some real pretty shit this morning, man. We’re all saying it, so I’ll join the chorus:
Tonight many people will skip the Oscars to watch for the umpteenth time Aliens or Weird Science or some other film featuring Bill Paxton, the gap-toothed exemplar of wounded manhood that’s always striving to measure up. We laugh at his hysterical ranting because deep down we knew we’d be shitting ourselves too if the alien horde were right outside the door. (“What the hell!”)
Bill Paxton was so vulnerable the audience couldn’t help but devour his shtick.
While not as memorable as his performance as Hudson in Aliens, his greatest performance was as Sheriff Dale “Hurricane” Dixon” in Carl Frankin’s 1992 debut film, One False Move. Written by and co-starring Billy Bob Thornton, One False Move is a little-seen, much loved thriller that follows three desperate criminals from Los Angeles to a backwater in Arkansas, where one of them inadvertently resurrects her troubled past. Later this year when I’m writing about my favorite films starting with the letter O, One False Move will be near the top of my list.
I saw the film for the first time in 1993 and it was a revelation, what Bill Paxton could do as a serious actor in a lead role. As Dale Dixon, the sheriff of Star City, Arkansas, Bill Paxton was tough, smart, and deadly earnest in everything he did. As the trusted, small town cop, Dale disarms a crazed old man swinging an axe without drawing his weapon, and then talks to the man until he has calmed down. He assists the high profile cops from LA with their wanted fugitives case, and watch how intently he listens to them when he asks if they think he could make it as a detective in the big city; later, when he overhears them joking about him, our hearts break with his — how dare anyone underestimate Bill Paxton!
By the end of the film Dale proved to everyone just how much he measured up. Though often cast in supporting roles, Bill Paxton proved with One False Move that he was a Movie Star. It’s one thing to love a performer, and another thing entirely to feel genuinely proud of them :)
Here’s a trailer for One False Move. See this movie. Bill Paxton will make you proud of him.