Rusty (Shawn Hatosy) left Texas at 15 only to meet a guy named Dallas (Scott Caan), who instantly became his best friend in pool hall brawls and hoodlum antics. His mother Mary (Kelly Lynch) is dating a psychiatrist named Bob (Jeff Goldblum), who ignores the concept of a conflict of interest and the obvious potential emotional problems that could arise and offers free therapy for the young man.

At this point, fairly early on, Dallas 362, written and directed by Caan, has strained its dramatic credibility. The scenario is too pat and clean, handing characters their arcs right from the start.

Even if one spreads one’s suspension of disbelief thin to buy into Caan’s loaded setup, the movie remains dramatically inert, with the characters’ destinies numbered from the beginning. Caan’s script merely fills in the appropriate colors.

Rusty and Dallas are friends who repeatedly get into scraps, while Mary bails them out. For her, it’s better than the alternative for her son, who really wants to be a steer wrestler like his father, who died during a rodeo doing the same. That Mary sees becoming involved with criminals and getting into random bar fights as less dangerous than rodeo riding is such an inconvenient breach of common sense that the movie never addresses it directly. Even Rusty, who desperately wants out of this low life, never brings it up.

Dallas has a plan to serve as the driver for a robbery of an anonymous rich guy, whose house he hears about from a redhead (Isla Fisher) he’s kind-of dating, who heard it from a roofer (Freddy Rodriguez), who saw money through the home’s skylight. Dallas needs “insurance” money to pay the roofer — a thousand bucks to guarantee 20 grand upon completion of the job.

Rusty wants nothing to do with Dallas’ scheme, and the movie is split down the center between Rusty’s rambling life and Dallas’ transparent roll toward disaster. While Dallas convinces the eternally in-debt Christian (an obnoxious Val Lauren) to help fund the roofer’s job (in exchange for a promise to involve the gambler in his plan to rob the man the loser is always indebted to), Rusty tells Bob about his life. Here’s the story of how Rusty and Dallas met, told in photographic flashback, divided in two, and neatly juxtaposed against their failing friendship now.

Rusty is a dull hero, an alleged bad boy who loves his mother, respects his mom’s boyfriend, wants to save his best buddy in the whole world, and speaks with unnatural lyrics of love for a woman he just meets in a diner (Marley Shelton, who appears in one scene to walk through a door and to a stool repeatedly in slow motion before making googly eyes at Rusty, who returns the favor). For a prime example of how little basis Caan’s dialogue has in reality, that scene is the one.

The major lesson of Dallas 362 (besides finally figuring out what the hell the title means in the last few frames) is summed up by the diner’s owner (Bob Gunton), who says — to paraphrase — that there are some things in life that we don’t know why they happened, but, “deep down,” we just know some things. Maybe that’s the scene to cite for the dialogue.

Mark Dujsik is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. For more of his reviews, visit his website.

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