No Man’s Land Review: A Well-Intended But Flawed Western Frontier
No Man’s Land is a well-intentioned, but inherently flawed Western drama. The son of a Texas border rancher flees to Mexico after accidentally killing an immigrant child. The film attempts to humanize the thorny issue of illegal immigration from multiple perspectives. Its aims are admirable, but the narrative succumbs to artifice and simplistic exposition. Reversing the story of fortune becomes a cliché through unrealistic plot developments. Said that No man’s land can be appreciated for your noble efforts.
No Man’s Land begins with the Greer family working diligently to conserve their livestock. Bill Greer (Frank Cricket) trained his two sons, Lucas (Alex MacNicoll) and Jackson (Jake Allyn), to be more than competent horsemen. He and his wife (Andie MacDowell) are particularly excited about Jackson’s future prospects. He was invited to participate in the minor league baseball team of the New York Yankees. The Greers face a constant struggle on the ranch. Mexican immigrants entered their land in an attempt to cross the border.
Gustavo (Jorge A. Jiménez) leads a small group of immigrants through the dangerous “no man’s land” between Texas and Mexico. He is accompanied by his children and his mother. A Christian of deep faith, Gustavo is affectionately called “the Pastor.” On a pitch black night, they come across Bill and his sons while searching for scattered cattle. A skirmish leads to a devastating result. Jackson escapes to a guilt-ridden Mexico. He is chased by a Texas Ranger (George Lopez) in search of the truth about the murder incident.
Jake allyn, who plays Jackson, co-wrote the script. His brother, Conor Allyn, runs it. His goal is to generate empathy for sick characters on both sides of the border. Economic difficulties caused a tragedy for two families. Jackson also learns of the kindness of Mexicans when they repeatedly help him flee. He becomes the illegal alien, desperate for help in a strange and unfamiliar environment. The allies have admirable intentions with their history. The problem is, No Man’s Land is lost in incredible and frankly patronizing territory. The whole second act is just too fantastic. The film loses gravity by repeatedly putting the protagonist in unlikely situations that are beneficial to him.
I have a major problem with a key support character. George Lopez plays Ramírez, a Texas Ranger who doesn’t speak Spanish. The idea that he would be sent to Mexico to pick up Jackson is ridiculous. You have great difficulty communicating with your Mexican counterparts and the locals you want to interview. This subplot doesn’t make sense. I can only assume that Jake Allyn did not want to paint all Hispanic characters with the same ethical brush. This is a particularly significant misstep that also detracts from the gravity of the main story arc.
Illegal immigration on the southern border is a storm of division in this country. Greers are not militias or “Minutemen”, but they have the right to protect their property and livelihoods. Latin Americans fleeing poverty and violence desperately need a better life. No Man’s Land embraces both points of view while trying to be thoughtful and receptive. The movie, in general, is not a success; but it conveys its message of understanding. No Man’s Land would have benefited from a rewrite to reduce multiple characters. No Man’s Land is a Margate House Films production. It will be released simultaneously in theaters and on video-on-demand by IFC Films on January 22.
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