Frank Grillo’s Latest Is Another Gritty ‘Taken’-Esque Revenge Flick

Feb 16, 2023

The start of the year is never a good time for movies, so it’s a good thing we can count on dads to save the day periodically. Starting with “Taken” a decade ago, fathers have become the go-to action heroes, saviors who will go to any lengths to right wrongs and rescue lives. The latest example of this is “Little Dixie,” a February release that pins an increasingly hostile father against a Mexican cartel.
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Remember, folks, no one is more aggro than paps. He’ll take your head off with a knife (“Taken”), blow your operation up with a match (“Nobody”), and torture every one of your clients with a fork (“The Commuter”). Anything to keep his loved ones safe. Doc (Frank Grillo) is just another dad trying to support his family, except he’s got more problems than your average father. He’s got child support to pay, alcohol to quit, and a job that requires him to look after governer Jeffs (Eric Dane), who has just sent the cartel’s youngest member to the chair.
The execution leads to a series of hits in which the Prados, mourning the loss of their brother, attempt to knock off everyone in Jeff’s crew. That leaves Doc–who has special forces training–to fend for himself when crap hits the fan and when his daughter (Sofia Bryant) is held hostage in exchange for the death of Richard Jeffs. While most heroes would go after Prado, Doc goes after the Oklahoman governor, blurring the line between hero and anti-hero in the process of rescuing his daughter. In the grueling chase, sparks fly as Doc takes out more men than we can count.
“Little Dixie” is as efficient, gritty, and messy as its lead character, which is a good thing since no one wants their B-movies to look as polished as their A-list fare. Much like Neeson’s movies, this taut thriller has lots of bruises and blemishes, but once the bullets start to fly, none of it really matters. Director John Swab keeps us invested with action, showing us what Doc is capable of when his daughter’s life is at stake. Sometimes it’s shootouts in empty warehouses; sometimes, it’s hand-to-hand combat in bloody, bone-crunching scenes that will make viewers wince in pain.
The quest to find his daughter, ‘Dixie,’ feels like a low-budget version of “Taken” or a New Coke version of “John Wick,” but with an undercurrent of racism that those films didn’t have. The villains on the ground are, of course, Mexican (cause all Mexicans have guns), and the fact that Doc comes from a Republican state really makes you question what Swab is trying to say with all this. Is this another ad for “Mexico’s wall,” or is it just a coincidence? Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to look past the visceral fights on display. If you go into “Little Dixie” expecting nothing more than to watch Grillo take out some bad guys, you’ll be more than satisfied with the ride “Dixie” has to offer. Just don’t go in expecting anything more. [C+]

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