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Outside Ozona

It starts with a wolf's-eye view of a corpse and, except for an extended coda, ends with the combustible convergence of its seemingly separate characters. In between, Outside Ozonaprovides a quirky look at just who might be driving the backwoods highways of Texas, listening to late-night radio.

Among those tuned to the sounds of the rebellious DJ (whiskey-voiced Taj Mahal) are a gentle, lonely trucker (Robert Forster), a Navajo woman (Kateri Walker) taking her dying grandmother to the Gulf of Mexico, and a serial killer (David Paymer) stalking women. Suspense builds nicely, although director J.S. Cardone relies on too many talking-head close-ups and "I'm acting now" monologues (one by the should-probably-stick-to-singing Meat Loaf as a desperate station manager is especially obvious). Kevin Pollak and Penelope Ann Miller add wry humor as a violent clown and his sleazy stripper girlfriend, whose essence is expressed by her shellacked-on Day-Glo makeup. The R&B soundtrack smoothly sustains the mood, and ultimately provides uplift. After a close encounter with death, Pollak's Wit reassures Miller's confused Earlene by stating, "I don't think they got soul music in hell."

 
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