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Toby Keith Rounded Up the Boys To Make ‘Beer for My Horses’

Late country legend's 2008 film showcased his breezy, populist spirit

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill leading “1883.”

Dwight Yoakam playing white trash to perfection in “Sling Blade.”

Trace Adkins starring in, well, seemingly everything according to his IMDb page.

Jumping from country music to acting is fairly common. Some even try their hands at moving behind the camera. Yoakam wrote, directed and starred in the bizarre “South of Heaven, West of Hell,” post-“Sling Blade.”

SOUTH OF HEAVEN WEST OF HELL

Toby Keith never boasted the movie credits of his fellow country musicians, but he did star in, produce and co-write a feature based on his hit song, “Beer for My Horses.”

Keith passed away after a battle with stomach cancer at the age of 62 earlier this week. No doubt just hearing his name sets off many beloved songs in minds across the country.

“Beer for My Horses,” a call for good, old-fashioned Texas-style justice, was more than likely one of those tracks.

The “Beer for My Horses” movie doesn’t have the same legacy as Keith’s song, but it’s a unique pit stop in his long and rocking career.

The 2008 film stars Keith as Rack, an Oklahoma deputy who finds himself up against a drug cartel after he arrests a higher up making a robbery. Along the way, his old flame (Claire Forlani) is kidnapped.

There’s also Ted Nugent playing a bow and arrow-carrying deputy who has his badge tattooed on his chest, Willie Nelson as the smoke-friendly head of a traveling circus and comedian Rodney Carrington (who co-wrote with Keith) as a mistake-prone deputy.

Nothing in “Beer for My Horses” takes itself all that seriously.

Beer For My Horses Trailer

The flick may have been led by Keith while he was still putting out chart-topping hits, but it ended up with a small release. Produced by CMT Films and Keith’s own Show Dog Productions, “Beer for My Horses” was distributed by Roadside Attraction with a limited theatrical run, likely to support the eventual home video release.

It made under $700,000 in theaters.

Helping Keith piece the scrappy production together was longtime collaborator Michael Salomon, who had previously directed music videos for the musician, including “Beer for My Horses.”

The Salomon-directed music video tells a separate story of a detective (Keith) who calls in his retired cop father (Willie Nelson) to help catch a serial killer.

The music video mostly avoids comedy and plays things straight, but the film adaptation abandons that approach and goes for laughs. The film relies on Carrington’s Lonnie to lighten scenes up and act as a constant comic foil for Keith’s straight man.

The decision to go for humor over something more in tune with the music video may have come down to budget constraints. Plus, Keith was likely smart enough to know people watching him and Nelson hunt a serial killer would be a goofy concept anyway.

The film itself is far from perfect, but Keith had the same likability in front of a movie camera that he did behind a microphone. He holds his own just fine in this nearly-forgotten picture. He likely could have had more of a film career, but his only other major acting work was 2006’s “Broken Bridges.”

The first half of “Beer for My Horses” is charming enough, but clunky in introducing Keith’s Rack as an arrested development type and setting up the supporting players.

Once Rack heads to Mexico to save the girl and shoot the bad guys it finds better footing. That includes Nelson’s amusing circus subplot and a musical number by Carrington set in a truck-stop bathroom.

It’s all nonsense, but that’s all it wants to be.

“Beer for My Horses” has that independent, yet populist spirit Keith captured so well in his music. The man had plenty to say, but he also just wanted to entertain.

Consider his decision to perform at Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. Artists who chose to perform at the ceremony were accused of making a divisive, political declaration of hate, rather than accepting the honor to perform at arguably one of the country’s most important events.

Keith was open about his conservative views, but when he defended his decision to perform, it was the artist and entertainer in him that bit back.

The man just wanted to play.

“I don’t apologize for performing for our country or military,” he said at the time, noting he’d also performed at events for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Beer for My Horses” should not be oversold as some essential Keith work, but it is born from that same spirit that fueled his music.

Keith teased potential “Beer” sequels, but those plans never panned out. Salomon and Keith continued working together though, teaming up for some flashy music videos, including 2010’s “Bullets in the Gun,” which serves as its own short film.

Keith’s music videos almost always had a cinematic flare and offered a different artistic perspective beyond the songs.

Toby Keith - Bullets In The Gun

“Beer for My Horses” may represent just a brief foray into filmmaking for Keith, but like a lot of his songs, it’s perfect for a few friends and some red solo cups.

Toby Keith - Red Solo Cup (Unedited Version)

Zachary Leeman is a reporter who has been published on websites such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and Mediaite. His novel “Nigh” will be released later this year from publisher Gilded Masque.

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