No Man’s Land review – well-meaning drama about US-Mexico relations

This contemporary western about a young Texan fugitive who flees south of the border is handsomely shot but didactic

Just north of the border between the United States and Mexico, the Greer family – patriarch Bill (Frank Grillo), mom Monica (Andie MacDowell), and grown sons Lucas (Alex MacNicoll) and Jackson (Jake Allyn) – work the land as ranchers. They raise cattle, ride horses and, being red-blooded Texan types, play sports – in Jackson’s case well enough that he’s got a chance to go pro as a baseball player. They also spend the odd evening riding the range with a vigilante militia group, rounding up immigrants who may have crossed the border illegally, to “help” the border patrols. On one such night, Jackson joins his dad and big brother, even though they try to keep him out of this sort of thing so he can get out of Dodge and become a sports hero – and what do you know, the dumb lug ends up shooting and killing a boy (Alessio Valentini) just a little younger than himself. In the back no less.

Ashamed, distraught and worried that his father will try to take the rap for him, Jackson confesses to local Texas Ranger Ramirez (venerable character actor George Lopez), but then bolts across the border to Mexico on his trusty horse Sundance. Soon, the fugitive is learning some life lessons and about what Mexico is really like, and he becomes a hired hand for a nice middle-class family. A flirtatious friendship blooms between him and the family’s pretty daughter, Victoria (Esmeralda Pimentel), while he tries not to get caught by the dead kid’s dad Gustavo (Jorge A Jimenez) and a skeevy people-trafficking “coyote” (Andres Delgado), who are out to get him.

This is clearly a well-intentioned film and not as entirely focused on the moral education of a gringo as the above would suggest; a lot of screen time is taken up with Gustavo’s own ethical crisis. However, the script – credited to the star Jake Allyn, his director brother Conor and a third Allyn named Rob, as well as Joel Shapiro – is as on the nose as a didactic punch to the face. But as contemporary westerns go, this one is at least nice to look at, with the endless shots of landscapes at magic hour.

• No Man’s Land is released on 31 May on digital platforms.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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