Ramming Speed

FW Weekly

DIRECTED BY: Dwight Greene

REVIEWED: 10-26-98

Wow. You just never know what's going on in the blooming little brain of the Boy Next Door.

Let's say it's 1971 in Fort Worth's Ryan Place, and he's over there on his porch, the Boy. He's Chip Douglas in his Scout uniform. His name is Dwight Greene.

In a few minutes he'll find his mom's old camera in a box and set up a grisly still-shot of himself being crushed by the garage door.

"I really started when I was 10 years old and found my mom's Brownie. Right off, I liked staging death scenes," Green said. "I did the thing of me being crushed by the garage door, and then I set up shots of me in a horrible, twisted bicycle crash."

This can lead one of two places, you think. He'll grow up to be either Ricky Lee Green the executed human butcher, or he'll become Dwight Greene the local movie writer and director and get a shot at fame and fortune.

Well, luckily, Ricky Lee he ain't.

He's 35 years old now, an obit editor at the Star-Telegram by day, and his first movie is about to open locally in the Fort Worth Film Festival (9:30 p.m. Saturday at Caravan of Dreams).

It's called Ramming Speed and the making of it was paid for Spike Lee-style with Greene's and his wife Sheila's credit cards and whatever cash they could muster. "We have about $120,000 into it," he said. "We bought an old movie camera. The actors worked for free, but when we make money, they get paid. It's called 'getting it at the back end,' which in this business can mean two things."

So you won't think we're trying to take some wannabe Spielberg homeboy here and blow his smoke up your tailpipe, let's discuss the accolades this 90-minute Ramming Speed is getting from the artsy-fartsy film types in Hollywood and New York. First off, Bob Saget is nowhere around. This isn't a cutesy, grainy home video of Dwight Greene's pubertal fantasies. It's the real deal, hard to stop watching once you start.

Ramming Speed the movie and Dwight Greene the script's co-writer couldn't be more paradoxical. In the first frame you know you're in a different world, probably one not on the map of your dreams for life's journey. But you've seen these people - on the pay phones along Jacksboro Highway, shoeless, smoking, sticky hair, holding a beer, hitting their kids with flyswatters. So now, in Greene's movie, you can ride along with the white trash ilk without getting arrested or tattooed or Rohypnoled.

All this from a Paschal boy, class of '80.

Right away you meet the brothers. Bobby (played by Greene), the dimwit with the heart. Bubba (Fort Worth's Steve Meek), the biker who can grab a shotgun and come back effortlessly with a load of Dilaudid. And Roy (TCU alum Matt Guidry). Yuk. Roy, the winker, the guzzler, the sicko stud who tongues his sister in one scene.

For reasons you can find out for yourself, these mutant brothers kidnap Paul, the hapless bartender down at the filthy joint, and they put Paul in a cage.

It's not about drugs. It's about what happens to losers who do drugs. Maybe in the sophistry that Doonesbury is editorial, Ramming Speed is even Biblical, the modern-day Jericho, wherein the good people's greatest feat is that they endure even if they never escape the sleaze.

Greene said he's intrigued by the loser mentality. He had a Wally Cleaver upbringing, he said, but Fort Worth's blatant Bible-belt indisposition tingles in his muse.

"I was a great kid with a good life," he said, "but remember those people at the grocery store? You were in line with your mom, and over there was some motorcycle moll with a little filthy kid, and she was slapping the shit out of him. I found those kinds of people so scary. So grimy and gritty.

"Later, at TCU I had this goofball, fluffy bunny kind of image which I needed to shed. So I make horror films now, because I do not want to be a fluffy bunny kind of guy anymore."

The film is nowhere near fluffy. It's more the essence of sandpaper dipped in Texas hot sauce. And Greene intended the local flavor, which plays through as clearly as a steel guitar.

"I was raised here in Fort Worth so white bread," Greene said. "But then I saw Blood Simple by the Coen brothers, and I thought, what are these assholes from Minnesota doing making a Texas horror movie? So I made my own Texas horror movie."

--Jane Holleman

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