A western with a new lead and a dusty script.
The story for “No Man’s Land” is set in the Texas-Mexico border, and it just so happens that two weeks in a row, I’ve reviewed two movies set near the Mexican border. The first was “The Marksman” with Liam Neeson a rancher, who helps a young Mexican boy dodge a drug cartel, and now the second is “No Man’s Land,” which is an artisan film with Frank Grillo, Andie MacDowell, and George Lopez in the cast and an unfamiliar actor in the lead.
Both these movies feature some good performances, but they just can’t seem to break tradition of the genre. It’s more of the same stuff, complete with family drama, runaways, bad men, and guns. Why couldn’t they be more like “No Country For Old Men” or “Hell or High Water?” Those films took memorable and dangerous risks, whereas this one wander around familiar territories.
In “No Man’s Land,” we meet Jackson Greer (Jake Allyn, who also wrote this), a young baseball player, who is days away from trying out for the Yankees. He wishes to help out his rancher like his father (Grillo) and brother (Alex MacNicoll), but they reject his assistance. It’s because he has a better opportunity ahead of him. Disobeying his father, he follows them when they come across some refugees, and Jackson accidentally kills a child and injures his brother.
His father tries to take the blame for Jackson, but he admits it to another ranger (Lopez), who chases him into Mexico. Now, he’s wandering around with his horse Sundance, but he manages to find work on a horse stable, where he falls for the owner’s daughter Victoria (Esmeralda Pimentel) for a short while. And since he’s haunted by the dead boy’s spirit, he must apologize to his father Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez), who wants revenge. That’s why he has a gunman (Andres Delgado) pursuing him.
“No Man’s Land” only works when we see the good performances from Allyn, Grillo, and Jimenez, and when we see some real emotions. I’ve never heard of Allyn before, but he does bring some humanity to his character, Grillo keeps his attitude in check as his father, and Jimenez offers some sincere dialogue as the dead boy’s father.
But outside the performances, the movie has nowhere to go and barely anything to do. It just bores you in the process with how it presents itself (Joe Allyn’s older brother Conor directed it), and how the script (also by David Barraza) relies on the formulas and cliches of a modern day western. We’ve seen all this before, and the story never expands its horizons. There could have been more out of the would-be romance between Jackson and Victoria or more depth to the baseball opportunity, if only “No Man’s Land” never took the easy way out.
The film means well at times, especially when Jackson and Gustavo finally meet face-to-face, but it’s not one I’d see again and again. It’s too obligatory for my interests.
In Select Theaters and On Demand