Bill Paxton took a dark turn in one of his final roles.
The late actor, who died last month, was a master of embodying a wide variety of characters, and his bone-chilling performance as a dirty cop and abusive dad in the Canadian thriller Mean Dreams is no exception.
Pegged as a coming-of-age tale turned crime caper, Mean Dreams — which arrives in theaters on Friday — tells the story of the young romance between two teenagers, Jonas (played by Josh Wiggins) and Casey (played by Sophie Nélisse). When Jonas sees Casey’s dad Wayne, a police sergeant played by Paxton, beating her, Jonas intervenes, and Wayne threatens his life.
Later, when Jonas catches Wayne stealing a large sum money, he takes the cash for himself and goes on the lam with Casey, living outdoors and trying to stay one step ahead of Wayne and his cop cronies.
The role shows Paxton in one of his final films (the other, The Circle with Tom Hanks, is slated for the end of April), and critics are already praising his transformative performance.
“Paxton, so good in so many different kinds of role in movies like Apollo 13, Titanic and Twister, as well as TV projects like Big Love and Hatfields & McCoys, again demonstrates his ability to play almost anything,” writes Pete Hammond at Deadline.
Eric Kohn at IndieWire notes that Paxton “injects Mean Dreams with a palpable sense of menace. Scowling at Jonas whenever he catches up to him, and grinning just as creepily when he takes control, he’s a terrific embodiment of the harsh world holding the film’s central characters down at every turn.”
Earlier this month, PEOPLE confirmed the actor’s cause of death was a stroke following heart surgery. Paxton was undergoing surgery to replace a heart valve and correct an aortic aneurysm when complications arose.
According to his death certificate, Paxton had surgery on Feb. 14 and died 11 days later on the Feb. 25 after suffering a stroke.
“It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery,” a family representative said in a statement, adding: “Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.”
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Paxton is best known for his roles in legendary movies such as Aliens, True Lies and Titanic.