Movie Review: ‘No Man’s Land’

Greetings again from the darkness. The title is drawn from what the locals call the gap between the Texas-Mexico border and the fence/wall that must be crossed for those looking to make their way. The film is directed by Conor Allyn and was co-written by his brother Jake Allyn and David Barraza. Jake is also the lead actor.

Bill Greer (Frank Grillo, THE GREY, 2011) and his wife Monica (Andie MacDowell) live on a border ranch with their eldest son Lucas (Alex MacNicoll, ALL ROADS LEAD TO PEARLA, 2019). It’s not an easy life, as the illegal aliens who cross their land sometimes cut the barbed wire fence for access, allowing the Greer’s cattle to escape. Their son Jackson (Jake Allyn) is home from college. He’s a baseball prospect with a trip to New York scheduled to meet with the Yankees (it’s funny how baseball players in the movies so frequently play for the Yankees). While home, Jackson rides his beloved horse Sundance, and helps chase the illegal aliens off the ranch.

One night things go horribly wrong, and Jackson accidentally shoots Fernando, a young boy who is crossing with his father Gustavo (Jorge Jimenez). As viewers, we’ve seen the caring father, referred to as “The Shepherd”, protect his son from the drug dealers and coyotes. Jackson’s dad tries to take the blame for the shooting when interviewed by Texas Ranger Ramirez (George Lopez in a rare dramatic turn for the comedian), but Jackson can’t keep quiet and he bolts across the Rio Grande on Sundance.
As Jackson makes his way deeper into Mexico, he crosses paths with a heavily-tattooed blond coyote named Luis (Andres Delgado) – one who had previously tried to scam Gustavo and Fernando. In fact, Luis shows up more often than a bad penny throughout the story. He’s the one true villain, yet even he thinks he’s doing the right thing (at least sometimes). Jackson is mostly impressed with how nice everyone is, and he ends up working for Victoria (Esmerelda Pimentel) at her father’s horse ranch. It turns out, Jackson is a horse-whisperer, in addition to being a talented baseball pitcher.

Jackson decides he must beg forgiveness from Gustavo, not knowing Fernando’s father is simultaneously tracking him down in a quest for vengeance. Mr. Jimenez gives the film’s finest performance as he flips the switch (quietly, but effectively) from protective and loving father to vengeful man on a mission. The script is filled with clichés and contrivances, with Jackson playing the role of white guilt with an emphasis on cross-cultural empathy. Mexico, and its people, are not like what he expected or had been led to believe. An elevator ride, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and a rendezvous at a funeral are examples of scenes that induce cringes from us as viewers, but nothing too outrageous is included, and we are engaged enough to continue along on Jackson’s trip.

This IFC Film opens January 22, 2021

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