Currently on view in an extended regional rollout, “Randy and the Mob” is a Southern-fried deadpan farce that suggests a mid-’60s CBS sitcom as reimagined by Hal Hartley. (Think “Petticoat Junction” by way of “The Unbelievable Truth.”) This lightly entertaining indie effort by Georgia-born multihyphenate Ray McKinnon (an Oscar winner for the 2001 short “The Accountant” whose first feature was the 2004 Sundance entry “Chrystal”) should play best in markets where ticketbuyers will experience pleasant shocks of recognition while being amused — and, perhaps more importantly, not offended — by pic’s affectionately drawn Deep South caricatures.
McKinnon (who played Rev. H.W. Smith in “Deadwood”) takes the central role of Randy Pearson, a small-town good-ol’-boy who tries, and fails, to be a big-time wheeler-dealer. Neither his truck stop nor his barbecue restaurant is generating enough cash for Randy to maintain payments on his steadily mounting debts, and his morose wife Charlotte (Lisa Blount, McKinnon’s real-life spouse) can’t provide much help after Carpal tunnel syndrome ends her career as a baton and dance instructor.
Too proud to ask for help from Cecil (also McKinnon), his gay twin brother, Randy rashly contacts a loan shark (Paul Ben-Victor). He gets the money, but there’s a catch: Tino Armani (Walton Goggins, “The Shield”), a mob functionary with a personality pitched somewhere between robotic and autistic, arrives in town to oversee Randy’s financial dealings.
Easily dominating every scene in which he appears, and even a few in which he doesn’t, Goggins is ineffably hilarious as he channels Billy Bob Thornton’s simpleton savant from “Sling Blade.” (Tito’s name may be “Eye-talian,” but his drawl is pure Dixie.) He skirts perilously close to cartoonishness, but never goes so far that his affectation becomes overbearing.
At once brutally frank and shrewdly empathetic, Tito quickly endears himself to Randy’s family, employees and customers. Indeed, whether he’s preparing tastier delicacies at the barbecue restaurant, coaching Randy’s young son (Sam Frihart) to be a better soccer player or nonchalantly conducting a clog-dance class for Charlotte’s students, he repeatedly underscores Randy’s personal and professional failings.
Still, McKinnon manages to maintain a fair degree of aud sympathy for Randy, playing the overextended dreamer with enough hangdog charm to make him worth caring about.
As Cecil, McKinnon takes a slightly subtler approach, even when the gay brother dons drag, and neatly avoids offensive stereotyping. It’s worth noting, by the way, that this red state-centric indie comedy treats Cecil’s marriage to a supportive life partner (Tim DeKay) with more dignity and respect than similar bonds are afforded in many mainstream Hollywood comedies.
The supporting players — including Burt Reynolds, slyly underplaying a one-scene cameo as Randy’s business rival — offer performances in sync with pic’s overall tone of stylized absurdity. Production values are all they need to be.