Pete Dexter’s haunting novel about an unspeakable crime in a simple Southern town circa 1949 is brought masterfully to life in Paris Trout, a mesmerizing, morbidly fascinating tale, with outstanding performances by Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey and Ed Harris.
Trouble begins when a young black man (Eric Ware) signs a note to buy a used car from Trout (Hopper). When the worthless car is wrecked the same day, he drops it off at Trout’s store, declaring he won’t pay. Trout and a hired gun head out to the ‘hollow’ to settle the debt. When the black man runs off, they enter the house and unload their pistols into his terrified mother and 12-year-old sister.
After his horrified wife (Hershey) visits the dying child at the clinic, Trout begins to humiliate and abuse her. He hires the town’s crack lawyer (Harris) to defend him, but the attorney becomes more and more disturbed by the case and Trout’s lack of remorse.
Hopper, beefy and aged for the role and sporting a clipped redneck haircut, gives an extraordinary portrayal of the tortured madman. Hershey is marvelous in a mature, nuanced perf as the compassionate spouse struggling to maintain dignity.