We may as well admit that there is always a hidden urge in us to see a film that stars Frank Grillo, no matter the plot. “Little Dixie” is yet another misuse of this guilty pleasure of ours. The film grabs our attention at the very beginning and then takes a dig at our interest by basically pretending that something big is about to go down. This doesn’t happen, and we feel as if we are put down more by our own expectations than by the film and its clichés. “Little Dixie” is not a misfire altogether because it has its share of gruesome murders, which is a primary aspect of the story. However, there is only so much Frank Grillo can do, even with a chainsaw, mind you. Here’s more on the characters.
Frank Grillo is Doc Alexander. Doc is a divorcee but is still in contact with his ex-wife Carla and their daughter Nell, who, according to Carla, loves him more. Doc and Nell have their secret meetings often, and it is clear that Doc makes sure that he does everything he can as a father. Former Special Forces, he is a fixer between Oklahoma Governor Richard Jeffs [Doc’s subordinate in the army] and Lalo Prado and his cartel. Lalo provided anonymous donations as well as Hispanic votes during Richard’s campaign in exchange for secrecy regarding his own business (cocaine). This whole thing is managed by Billie Riggs, Richard’s campaign manager, and Doc works with her. But when Richard forms a task force to take down Prado, things go haywire. Prado’s half-brother Cuco decides to do things his way and kills Billie and her wife at her home. Doc tries to reach Richard but finds out that he has decided to break all ties with Doc and Billie. Then, when the cartel’s cocaine warehouse is hit by Richard’s task force, which seizes all the cocaine and money, Cuco kidnaps Doc’s daughter. Doc will get her back only after he brings Cuco to the attention of Richard Jeffs.
Work-wise, Doc is a man of few words and doesn’t back out easily. To understand him, we have to move back in the timeline a bit. After the execution of Lalo Prado’s brother Juan, Richard declares forming a Task Force against Prado’s cartel, in front of the media. Doc knows that Juan’s death was part of a deal between Prado and the authorities. However, if Richard takes any further steps against Prado, the latter won’t hold back at all. Doc thus tries to ensure that things don’t go wrong by speaking to Billie and asking her to get Richard to stop pulling his stunts. Doc doesn’t know that Billie hasn’t told Richard about almost anything related to Prado. He asks her to do the same before the cartel decides to hit back. Richard is then informed by Billie, with Doc present, of Prado’s contribution to his election campaign and is told to assess what’s to be done and back down from his Task Force initiative for the time being. But by then, it’s too late.
Doc finds Billie and her wife dead in their house. Doc still tries to keep the situation from getting worse by trying to reach Richard, but it isn’t possible anymore. Without any prior information, Richard has decided to end their arrangement. Doc then heads back to Prado’s warehouse, where, before he can initiate any conversation, the place is attacked by Richard’s Task Force. Doc manages to escape unhurt, but his job has barely begun as he has to get Richard’s head if he wants his daughter back. He heads to a friend and gets some guns for himself. At this point, it seems as if he is going to head to Prado’s place in Zaragoza, Mexico, and find out where Cuco is. Needless to say, he will need a lot of firepower for it. But it’s when he asks his friend for a chainsaw that we begin to wonder about the alternative, i.e., is he really planning to get Richard’s head? Well, soon enough, we find out that it is the second option that Doc opts for. He goes to Richard’s mansion, kills all the guards, Richard’s press secretary, Julie Reed, and finally, Richard. He then cuts off Richard’s head with the chainsaw, puts it inside a bag, and begins his journey to a motel in Del Rio, where Cuco is holding Nell. On the way, he even kills a guy at the gas station where he refills so that the guy doesn’t notice the blood trail on the floor of the store, thanks to Richard’s head. Upon reaching the motel and finding out that Cuco has left the motel and gone to Mexico, he follows him there.
The way in which Doc Alexander kills people, especially women, proves that he isn’t really suffering from the traditional compromises that come with morality and restraint, be it due to his experiences in the Special Forces or due to the sheer motivation of getting his daughter back. In other words, if he feels the need, he won’t pull away from killing an innocent [although we do not know if he would kill a kid too]. We might think that he killed Julie because, somewhere, he believed that she, too, had a role to play in what led to his daughter’s kidnapping. When we are desperate for something, we tend to look for ways to convince ourselves that what we are doing is justified or the right thing to do to get it.
However, this theory doesn’t qualify when we consider the guy Doc kills at the gas station, who had absolutely nothing to do with whatever Doc was going through. Doc killed the guy to avoid leaving evidence. The same might have been the case with Julie [if we disregard the theory stated above]. He killed her because he couldn’t afford to leave any evidence. What’s surreal is how, without any hesitation, Doc chops off Richard’s head and puts it in a bag. They served together in the Special Forces. Doc was Richard’s superior officer, almost like a brother. While taking the head to Cuco, he speaks to it as if he is speaking to Richard. He tells Richard (his head) that he has everything, and he doesn’t need to be with the girl (Julie) because that is what led to her death. Here again, we see Doc trying to convince himself that Julie is dead because of Richard. Doc then shares with him, and we find out that his last tour was what affected him and his married life, resulting in his divorce.
Quite naturally, none of the people Doc killed meant more to him than his daughter’s life. At Prado’s mansion, he manages to kill Cuco [this is when Doc and Nell are ordered by Prado to be shot to death. Cuco and another guy the father and daughter outside and make them kneel. But before Cuco could shoot them, Doc manages to pull the gun from the other guy’s hand, cover himself from Cuco’s bullets by using the guy as a shield, the guy thus dies, and shoots Cuco when he gets the chance]. Doc then heads back inside the mansion with Nell, hides her inside a bathroom, and heads for Prado, killing the guards on the way. However, it is his daughter, Nell, who shoots and kills Prado and saves her father who was held at gunpoint by Prado. While returning with her from Zaragoza, Mexico, he drops Richard’s head in a lake, bidding him a final goodbye. It is possible that his last tour pulled his ability—or, should we say, his flaw—of judgment out of him. He had to follow orders without questioning them and kill no matter how many innocents he needed to. The same happens in this scenario. He had to get his daughter back, and no one, not even the governor, could get in his way. We can judge him all we want, but he will always act as he deems wiser. At least, that’s what it seems.
Cuco’s inclination toward killing people, while seemingly similar to Doc’s, is different. He kills people without any heed because he is good at it. Cuco’s American mother died when he was 13 years old. Being a prostitute, she slept with many men. So after Cuco was born, no one believed that he was the son of kingpin Antonio Prado, thanks to Cuco’s skin tone. His stepmother didn’t accept him. People abused his mother. His string of murders began at the age of 13 itself when a boy abused his dead mother. So there is a dormant rage inside him, and as he grew up, so did his rage. When the Americans are planning to attack them, for Cuco, it is like being mocked and neglected [just like what he was subjected to as a kid]. Naturally, he can’t endure this anymore and decides to do what’s necessary to prove himself to his brother, Prado, no matter how many people he has to kill. It might also be that he still suffers from the thought that he will never be acceptable to his family because his mother was American, and thus he has to do something worthy to prove himself. Cuco has suffered a lot, yes, but the way the character has been portrayed feels insufficient. If the creators had provided him with a darker past, the conflict between his character and Doc’s would have been more effective.
“Little Dixie” rips the usual child-motivated plot to its bare minimum and makes use of characters that are archetypes. It is brutal and doesn’t allow us to think about the repercussions of the actions but rather be in the middle of whatever is happening. If you like grim action movies, “Little Dixie” will quite certainly suit you. If you are not, it might suit you still. And we all love Frank Grillo, right?