Doonby: Polarizing ending in Texas-set thriller will have you talking long after you see it

By DAVID MARTINDALE, Special Contributor

Published: 23 February 2012 10:22 PM

Doonby is an ambitious little independent picture with two things that make it memorable.

First there’s leading man John Schneider, who delivers a winning performance as Sam Doonby, a likable drifter with a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Then there’s the ending, which plays like a Rorschach test: You’ll be able to tell a lot about the moviegoers and their beliefs based on their reactions. Some will think the ending is profound and powerful. Others will find it preachy and infuriating. No middle ground.

Sam Doonby steps off a bus in Smithville, Texas, and instantly makes many friends and a few enemies. He tends bar and plays guitar at the local watering hole. He makes the women swoon. He becomes a hero after he saves a baby from being crushed by a runaway truck. He wins the heart of a beautiful girl.

For a guy who claims he’s a nobody, he makes quite an impression. Then he vanishes as suddenly as he arrived — and the people in town find a huge void in their lives without him.

It’s a good-looking film with a sly story line and a supporting cast of familiar faces: Ernie Hudson, Robert Davi, Jennifer O’Neill and Joe Estevez (Martin Sheen’s look-alike brother).

Behind the scenes, there’s also a fascinating story of stunt casting: Norma McCorvey, who made headlines in 1973 as the abortion-seeking plaintiff in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade case, has a small role, in which she urges a young woman not to terminate her pregnancy. As coincidence would have it, after the filmmakers decided to shoot in Smithville (southeast of Austin), they discovered that McCorvey lived in that very town.

But ultimately, it’s the polarizing ending that will have moviegoers talking long after they see it.

David Martindale is an Arlington freelance writer.

DOONBY - Directed by Peter Mackenzie. PG-13 (some violence, sexual situations, and drinking). 96 mins

Now playing in Dallas, TX and Chattanooga, TN. For more information on Doonby click HERE

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