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With: Jake Allyn, Frank Grillo, Andie MacDowell, George Lopez, Jorge A. Jimenez, Andres Delgado, Alex MacNicoll, Ofelia Medina, Esmeralda Pimentel
Written by: Jake Allyn, David Barraza
Directed by: Conor Allyn
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong violence and language
Running Time: 115
Date: 01/22/2021

No Man's Land (2021)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Out of Border

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Well-meaning and clearly earnest, the rural drama No Man's Land can't overcome characters that are thinly drawn, characters that just aren't very smart, and the constantly-shaking, headache-inducing camerawork.

Jackson Greer (Jake Allyn) is a promising baseball player who returns home and confesses to his parents, Bill (Frank Grillo) and Monica (Andie MacDowell), that he'd like to stay with them and continue working on their ranch. They argue, but meanwhile, Mexican immigrants cross the "no man's land" between the Rio Grande and the Greer property, and there's a standoff.

When a young Mexican boy (Alessio Valentini) pulls a contraband switchblade, and Jackson panics and shoots him. With Jackson's brother Luke (Alex MacNicoll) hospitalized after the scuffle, Jackson escapes into Mexico with nothing but his trusty horse Sundance, and with men on his trail, to find the boy's family and, hopefully, his own salvation.

Star Allyn co-wrote the screenplay for No Man's Land while his brother Conor directed, and they must have had something very serious and noble in mind, a portrayal of the immigrant experience as told from the point of view of sympathetic whites. Instead it comes out quite awkward, from its overall approach to individual moments.

There's a strange chase scene featuring a truck following a horse, and a moment in which Jackson drinks from a water hole that his horse refuses to touch (when he should have known better).

A would-be suspenseful sequence involving a drive-by shooting is rendered confusing by poor editing and too many close-ups, and there's even a montage sequence accompanied by a mournful song. And a villainous thug, with shaved, dyed punk-rock hair and tattoos, that keeps turning up to cause trouble, is a one-dimensional annoyance, all fake swagger and threat.

After nearly 115 minutes of No Man's Land, it becomes clear that even Jackson isn't much of a character. He's so single-minded that no gray areas are revealed that might make him feel more human, not even a near-flirtation with the lovely Victoria (Esmeralda Pimentel), who is never seen again. It's a shame that the movie doesn't quite work when the brothers seemed to try so hard.

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