Parents' Guide to

The Meanest Man in Texas

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Violent faith film flounders in telling true salvation tale.

Movie NR 2019 106 minutes
The Meanest Man in Texas Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Based on 1 parent review

age 8+

The Meanest Man In Texas is awesome!!

This is a must see! It is a life changing experience through and through

This title has:

Great messages

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This drama is earnest, it's true, and it has the power to be effective -- if only it were good. A plot about God's salvation can't be any more direct than when a preacher's prodigal son is saved from the electric chair, saved from a prisoner's shiv, saved by a warden's bullet, and saved from serving multiple life sentences. But first-time feature director Justin Ward doesn't deliver on the promise of the title: Thompson never comes off as the ornery cuss that he must have been at some point, especially as he's portrayed by Ward's son Mateus. When Thompson is "mean," Mateus Ward presents it as cool: He's Texas tough, able to take any abuse without a whimper, and James Dean chic with tousled hair and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. The film wants to have it both ways, but Thompson can't be a sexy, misunderstood scapegoat while also serving as proof that a coldblooded irredeemable killer can do a 180.

Once Thompson requests that Bible to read, his years-long transformation happens in a near-instantaneous movie montage: He befriends the prison guards, gets two degrees, and becomes the toast of both prison and religious institutions. Like a trail of breadcrumbs, The Meanest Man in Texas drops one-liners of all the interesting areas that could have been explored: how those with less means or education get harsher sentences, how the system hardens rather than reforms, how prisons treat inmates inhumanely, and how employers discriminate against the disabled. Instead, the message the film chooses to deliver is completely watered down, and the entire effort comes off as disingenuous. It's like the filmmakers are less interested in telling Thompson's remarkable story and more interested in bolstering their careers by creating moments that will look good on a sizzle reel.

Movie Details

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