On Thursday night, Houston Republican Dan Crenshaw shared a new campaign ad, featuring himself and five other GOP congressional candidates in what his YouTube page humbly described as the “greatest joint campaign ad in history.” Describing the three-and-a-half-minute spot as an “ad” almost misidentifies it, though. It’s not a campaign advertisement in the traditional sense, as those often identify the candidates’ policies, or at least describe the policies of their opponents. There’s no call to action in the video, or even details on when the election is and why, specifically, you should vote for the candidates who appear.
No, what Crenshaw and friends have created is … art? A short film, anyway, stylized like an action movie trailer (for a film called Texas Reloaded, which the candidates seem like they would have a lot of fun making), and intended to introduce the team to voters as superheroically as possible. It is whimsical and self-aware and pretty weird, a fun ad in a bleak time. However, given that it presents its characters in the milieu of an action film, it is fair to approach it as such. There are some plot holes is what we’re saying, and some stylistic choices that don’t quite make sense. Given that nobody makes an ad like this to not start a conversation, we will make the observations and ask the questions that we were left with after watching Texas Reloaded.
1. Crenshaw riffs on the eye patch
Crenshaw, who represents Texas’s Second Congressional District, has been in the news for his eye patch before. In 2018, Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson helped propel the freshman incumbent to national political fame after he mocked the candidate as looking like “a hit man in a porno movie.” Crenshaw, who lost the eye in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan, later appeared on SNL, where Davidson apologized. The joke may have been in poor taste, but Crenshaw himself riffs on the eye patch in the ad in its opening moments, where he lifts it to reveal … a bionic eye! It scans a cellphone marked “Top Secret” to inform the congressman of his secret incoming mission, a classic inciting incident, like something directly out of a Syd Field screenwriting book.
2. Why is Crenshaw getting his mission from somebody with a British accent?
The voice that informs Crenshaw of his secret mission speaks, unmistakably, with a British accent. That makes sense in movies, where British accent = smart, but sends kind of a weird message in an ad about how he is being tasked with recruiting a team of politicians to “save Texas.” Certainly, there are British-accented people who work in both American politics and for American intelligence agencies, but still, weird choice.
3. Why does he take an airplane to visit the guy whose district is closest to his?
In the second scene of Crenshaw’s “getting the team together” sequence, he straps a parachute on his back, gasses up the plane, and takes off for … TX-7, which is directly adjacent to the southwestern portion of Crenshaw’s own district. There, he encounters Wesley Hunt, who’s challenging Democratic incumbent Lizzie Fletcher in the Harris County district. The two have an easy chemistry, and Hunt—chomping on a cigar and sitting in the cockpit of an Apache helicopter—is an obvious choice for the first recruit. He asks Crenshaw why he parachuted in instead of texting, which is a good question, but it also ignores that there are so many ways a person can get from TX-2 to TX-7. Literally just cross the street! Had we been consulted on the script, we’d have suggested to Crenshaw and cowriter/director Jarred Taylor that he should air-drop in on one of the candidates running in San Antonio or the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex.
4. Why is August Pfluger in this ad?
Five of the six candidates in the ad have something in common: They’re all running in competitive races. A few of them are underdogs. Crenshaw, the highest-profile of the bunch, is favored to retain his seat. But August Pfluger, who’s just hanging out with Hunt in the hangar, is running in the safely Republican Eleventh Congressional District. I guess that means he has time to cool his heels in TX-7 with Hunt, but it’s a missed opportunity to put a more endangered candidate, like longtime incumbent Michael McCaul (TX-10), in a suit behind a desk to play Charlie to Crenshaw’s angels.
5. How tall is August Pfluger?
Dude is like a full head taller than Crenshaw and Hunt.
6. Did those three guys travel to see Beth Van Duyne in separate aircraft?
Climate change is a hot-button political issue, but it’s one that Crenshaw acknowledges as real. Yet when it’s time to recruit Van Duyne, we see shots of both Crenshaw’s jet and Hunt’s chopper making the relatively short trip to Dallas. We’re not saying that they should have hopped on the Megabus, but that just seems wasteful.
7. Why is Beth Van Duyne awarding police officers medals?
The candidate, running to succeed a longtime GOP representative in North Texas, might have had that on her list of responsibilities when she was mayor of Irving, but these days she’s a regional administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Are these HUD police?
8. Why does the screen shake when Crenshaw and Van Duyne shake hands?
They added a “slam” sound effect! How hard did they shake? Are they okay? Did Hunt have to airlift anybody to a hospital for a broken wrist?
9. What is Tony Gonzales hacking into?
Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran running to succeed Representative Will Hurd in Texas’s highly competitive Twenty-third Congressional District, works in cybersecurity, and the best way to communicate that visually is to show him hunched over a keyboard, with the basic “Hollywood hacker” graphics onscreen. Still, whatever database Gonzales is trying to access is called “Secret Information,” which sounds like a trap to us. Also, Crenshaw unplugs Gonzales’s computer just before he gets in, so it must not have been that important. Maybe we’ll find out in the sequel!
10. Why didn’t they use better sound equipment?
They clearly spent some money on this ad, and director Jarred Taylor has actual feature film experience. Yet when Crenshaw speaks and the score—a cross between The Avengers theme (minus the crescendo) and a Thomas J. Henry ad—drops, there’s a bunch of staticky background noise. Just a reminder to low-budget and independent filmmakers not to skimp on the sound quality. It really drags down the production.
11. Who is Genevieve Collins fighting?
Genevieve Collins, who is running in Collin County against Colin Allred, first appears in the ad in a … yoga studio? A dojo? Somewhere with plants and a bamboo floor, anyway. She’s engaged in hand-to-hand combat against a bald and bearded male assailant, whom she dispatches with ease. It appears to be some sort of sparring, and the ad references Collins’s time as an athlete. She was a competitive NCAA rower in college, but a search of her bio for a martial arts history turns up little. Sure, a karate exhibition is more visually dynamic than showing the candidate carrying out her responsibilities as head of corporate strategy at education technology company Istation, and she pulls off the stunt work, but we require more context for this encounter. (Also, when they freeze-frame on her, why did they leave her vanquished opponent’s hand in the shot?)
12. What are they blowing up???
The final shot, of our characters walking toward the camera in slow motion, is a standby in every action movie. Avengers director Joss Whedon, explaining his problem with an earlier draft of that film’s script, once argued with the ubiquity of that kind of shot: “There was a line in the stage directions that said, apropos of nothing, ‘And then they all walk toward the camera in slow motion because you have to have that,'” Whedon recalled to Thrillist in 2018. “Yeah, well, no: You have to earn that.” Texas Reloaded doesn’t really earn it—the team is recruited, but we immediately jump to a shot of the United States Capitol, then to the crew doing the slo-mo walk, before—wait for it—helicopters fly by and then whatever tarmac they’re walking on explodes behind them!
Admittedly, an explosion occurring behind our heroes is an exciting moment. But there is no sense of danger in the ad, no stakes outlined, no context provided for why the explosion occurred. Are they being attacked, or did they plan the attack? The question is quickly answered, though without a satisfying explanation: As a massive fireball fills the frame behind the team, Crenshaw folds his arms and his colleagues assume heroic stances of their own, satisfied in a job well done. Except … what did they just blow up? The last thing we saw was the Capitol building! What mission were they on here?
The world may never know. We will give credit to Crenshaw for his Father Amco–like dedication to the bit, and it definitely seems like everybody had a fun weekend together making the ad. But as a piece of filmmaking, we must acknowledge it as an incomplete work, one that raises questions it has no interest in answering, built on themes it chooses not to pay off. Is it asking a lot of a political ad for it to display even the sort of basic narrative cohesion you would find in, say, an Expendables sequel? Maybe, but we’re not the ones who made Dan Crenshaw a cyborg or had the class of congressional candidates call in an airstrike—those are the decisions the team behind the ad made. We certainly appreciate over-the-top goofiness in our politics, but if they’d really nailed the character arcs, they could have had a masterpiece here.