A good-old-boy small-town sheriff in a New Orleans parish happens upon a murder case that threatens to end his career in Behind the Badge, the embattled second feature of writer/director Robby Henson (Pharaoh's Army). Billy Bob Thornton stars as Darl, a divorced lawman first spotted sleeping in his truck outside his favorite bar. Darl gets a call about a truck accident, and happily hands out shoes from the ditched tractor-trailer to win over the locals for his re-election. But then the body of a beautiful woman is found in the mud near the wrecked truck. The "woman" turns out to be a transsexual with a .22 slug in her back. Prejudice reigns in the small community, and no one seems to be taking the murder too seriously. Local politicians, including a powerful judge (William Devane), are focused on the upcoming election, and are also angling to build a casino in town, and so they want to keep the sordid murder quiet. The victim's wife, Scarlet (Patricia Arquette), a New Orleans stripper, shows up. Despite Darl's own prejudices, he finds himself attracted to Scarlet, and starts to look into the case. Soon he learns that his investigation and his big mouth have cost him his slot on the ticket. When he presses on, he finds himself jailed on a trumped-up statutory rape charge. Struggling with his own family history of disgrace, Darl considers making a deal with the local bigwigs in order to keep his job. But when he learns that Scarlet is in danger, he's forced into action. Sela Ward and Jena Malone also star. Behind the Badge was heading for theatrical distribution before production company Propaganda Films went bankrupt. The film was unable to find a new distributor and premiered on Starz cable on September 7, 2002.
by Josh Ralske synopsis