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Dixie's on Ray McKinnon's mind

The films of the most original and insightful observer of the New South working today



The films of Ray McKinnon


"It's more of a 'medium' than a 'short,'" McKinnon says of his Oscar-winner, one of the best films of any length ever made about the South. Evoking the darkly comedic tradition of Flannery O'Connor, McKinnon plays the title role of a beer-swilling number-cruncher who concocts an insurance swindle to save a family farm. Gorgeously cinematic, "The Accountant" features great jokes about the corporate threats to Southern culture, including Boston Market: "One day your kids'll eat cornbread that's sweet, and drink ice tea that ain't, and think that's a Southern tradition."


After wondering whether Billy Bob Thornton was "a real person" in "The Accountant," McKinnon worked with the movie star in his first feature film. Thornton and McKinnon's late wife Lisa Blount play two characters suffering from physical and emotional scars in the Ozarks. Chrystal's redemption drama has a downbeat integrity, but its subplots prove more accessible, with Walton Goggins ("Justified") playing a scholar researching Southern roots music and McKinnon turning up as a backwoods drug dealer named Snake. Chrystal's themes of life outside of prison resurface in "Rectify."


This affectionate farce about small towns and Southern families feels like a showcase for two ambitious performances by McKinnon and Goggins. McKinnon plays twin brothers, one gay, the other a straight family man in debt to an organized crime syndicate. Goggins plays an idiot savant mobster with a delivery reminiscent of Thornton's in Sling Blade. Filmed mostly in Villa Rica, Ga.


McKinnon produced and co-stars but did not write or direct Scott Teems' adaptation of William Gay's story "I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down," featuring a magisterial turn by Hal Holbrook. The octogenarian screen icon plays a nursing home escapee who enters a battle of wills with the seedy tenant of his Tennessee homestead, played by McKinnon.


McKinnon directs a peculiar seven-minute short written by and starring "Rectify" staff writer Graham Gordy. Essentially a monologue from the spirited founder of a Louisiana (or "Lou-zanna") pepper sauce manufacturer, the old-fashioned spiel reveals increasing levels of delusion and sorrow.

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