This is another of those Movies I’d Never Even Heard Of, and as often happens with those, it turned out to be a pretty good little film.
The protagonist of KILLER DILLER is a young man who gets in trouble with the law for stealing cars and brawling in bars. (“Stealin’ cars and brawlin’ in bars” . . . Sounds like a line from a country song, doesn’t it?) He’s sent to a halfway house that’s affiliated with the Baptist college in the small Missouri town where he lives. It turns out that he was sent there because he can play the guitar, and the director of the halfway house is putting together a band to play Christian music. Our guitar player hero doesn’t like that, so when he runs into an autistic young man who is a genius at playing the piano, he decides that on the sly, he’ll transform the Noble Defenders of the Word (the name that the director of the halfway house gives the group) into the Killer Diller Blues Band. Naturally, complications ensue.
While this movie definitely falls into the heart-warming and inspirational category, it manages to be fairly gritty in places, too. There are a lot of scenes set in sleazy bars, the language is rough enough to earn a PG-13 rating, and the hero has plenty of flaws. But it’s really nice to see a movie in which religion plays a major part where the script is neither overly sweet and heavy-handed or cynical and mean-spirited.
William Lee Scott, an actor I’m not familiar with, plays the protagonist and does a good job. Lucas Black is excellent as the autistic, piano-playing prodigy. The rest of the cast is populated with character actors like Fred Willard, Ashley Johnson, and one of my favorites, W. Earl Brown (who played Al Swearingen’s right-hand man Dan Dority in DEADWOOD). Most of the music is by veteran bluesmen Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’. I’m not a big fan of the blues, but the music works great in this film.
If you’ve never heard of KILLER DILLER, either, check it out if you run across it. It’s well worth watching.