As we pass the title cards, we are introduced to the Greer family. As Patriarch Bill (Frank Grillo) says, they’re not Americans, they’re Texans. They are ranchers, and the father organizes his sons Lucas (Alex McNicholl) and Jackson (Jake Ellin, also a writer in the film) to mend fences and run oxen around the family ranch. Bill and the boy’s mother, Monica (Andy McDowell), are both excited that Jackson’s youngest son will soon try out for the Yankees AA team. The bill talks about the high cost of signing the ranch, which may be a bit optimistic: Weekly wages of $600 in the region are hardly the level of a superstar. For his part, Jackson is more realistic about his chances in New York and seems just as happy to stay where he is. Maybe he’s romanticizing life on the ranch because the family is clearly in financial trouble. A struggle made no easier by the loss of livestock due to fences damaged by immigrants using their land as a staging area, and the occasional theft of chickens along the way.
To remedy this, the father and big boy join a vigilant border patrol that picks up migrants on behalf of the authorities. Jackson tries to catch one, which gets out of hand and leads to Lucas being injured and Jackson accidentally killing a young boy. When a Texas Ranger arrives to pick up Jackson, he flies across the Rio Grande on his horse, intending to reach the town of Guanajuato to apologize to the dead boy’s father, Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez).
Walk (or ride) a mile in your shoes
The configuration of the characters brings them all back to their normal configuration. Gringo Jackson is now an illegal immigrant; the Texas Ranger has left his jurisdiction and must now obey authority; American parents should be concerned about the dangers of the desert….. It’s not very subtle, but it’s never very forced. No man on earth is as blasphemous as Crash with his authoritarian Hollywood morality. In addition to sometimes not wanting to just tell the story, manufacturers want to tell something that isn’t. Makes you wonder who they’re doing it for. If you go to a Hollywood movie shot near the US border, you probably haven’t worn a red hat in the last four years. I’m going to take a risk and say that you, dear reader, are not a fanatic. It’s stupid to lump all migrants together. So the fact that the main character in the movie learns these lessons doesn’t really tell us what he didn’t know.
You may be on the wrong horse (rider).
Jackson, as the main character, has a hard time being presented as ignorant. Every part of his trip to Mexico is a surprise to him. It’s not like someone who grew up on the border can be so blissfully ignorant about so many things. He doesn’t even speak a word of Spanish and grew up on a small ranch in Texas. They never had Hispanic workers? Neighbors? Are there any classmates? Maybe the script talks crazy on this one. That’s a word Jackson must not know.
A much more intriguing character is George Lopez’s Texas Ranger, Ramirez. He’s a man who does the best he can under impossible circumstances, and Lopez brings a great degree of worldliness to this role. It is the only part of No Man’s Land that approaches the heights of No Country For Old Men, with which it has little in common, but which its location cannot help but evoke.
Another good choice to focus on Gustavo would be grieving. Jimenez gives a good insight into how a tortured soul doubts its place in things. Gustavo is an American citizen who apparently helps people across the border because he thinks it’s the right thing to do, not for financial gain. To receive such a result in the death of a child is an injustice that can tear it apart.
Unfortunately, for some reason the film focuses on the character played by the writer and the director’s brother, which makes the final product less appealing. The film is well filmed, the performances are up to very good, but it seems to be looking for a handhold. It’s never bad, but you feel like you’re missing an opportunity to say something more than that everything is complicated.
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