Filmmakers and novelists love to talk about American insularity and blundering naiveté. You know, that distinctive and ultimately insidious impulse to do good while making a profit — a course that, witness the hapless characters in Coyote, invariably seems to create havoc. Steve and J. (Brian Petersen and Brett Spackman, who also cowrote the movie, with Petersen directing) are two likable Tucson slackers who fall into one of the sweetest easy-money schemes imaginable: using a variety of clever ruses to sneak undocumenteds in from Mexico. They'll make a little money while performing a praiseworthy task, they think. "We're actually trying to do some good here," J. notes sanctimoniously. They charge a cool $1,500 per Mexicano for their services, but hey, at least they're not like those parasites who drop unsuspecting illegals in the desert to fend for themselves. Our heroes are the "kinder, gentler" coyotes. They have marketing and tracking skills, with a pamphlet promising a whole range of coyote services, welcome-to-America baskets after a successful crossing, and GPS devices to make their way through the Arizona desert. Soon, they're rolling in dough — and attracting the attention of not-so-gentle Mexican coyotes (these badasses, you could say, don't need no stinkin' badges). This is clearly going to end badly — though, in their blind belief in their sweet, well-meaning entrepreneurialism, the guys can't figure that out until it's much too late. The movie is like low-budget Jonathan Demme (Something Wild or, in theaters now, Rachel Getting Married), without the eclectic soundtrack and the scintillating production values. Still, Petersen and company tell a compelling story with a Demme-like instinct for the dark side and an ending that cuts to the bone. (Friday, October 17, 8 p.m., Miniaci Performing Arts Center, 95 minutes.)
Click below for a trailer of Coyote
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.