Writer-director Conor Allyn teams up with his brother and actor Jake Allyn for the Western No Man’s Land from IFC Films. Border vigilante Bill Greer (Frank Grillo) and his son Jackson (Jake Allyn) are on patrol when Jackson accidentally kills a Mexican immigrant boy. Bill tries to take the blame, but Texas Ranger Ramirez (George Lopez) sees through the lie, spurring Jackson to flee south on horseback across the Rio Grande to become a gringo “illegal alien” in Mexico.
Chased by Texas Rangers and Mexican Federales, Jackson journeys across deserts and mountains to seek forgiveness from the dead boy’s vengeful father, Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez). Along the way, he falls in love with the land he was taught to hate. I hadn’t seen any of the director’s previous work, however, I remember that his brother Jake had impressed me with his acting on the short-lived BET series The Quad. I was primarily sold on this film as one of my favorite actors, Frank Grillo, has a featured role.
I’ve been a fan of Frank Grillo going all the way back to his days as Hart Jessup on the daytime serial Guiding Light. Naturally, I was elated when Grillo started to break through to the mainstream in 2011 with the feature film Warrior. So usually, whenever the actor does a movie, I’ll support it. In addition to having a co-starring role in the movie, Grillo has an executive producer credit. With that said, Grillo does have a rather minimal role in the film.
Primarily the film is about Jackson and his arc. I commend the studio for using an unknown in Jackson’s role as it allowed us to identify with our lead character. While I don’t have an athletic bone in my body, Jackson’s struggle was relatable. His desire of not pursuing professional sports reminded me of my growing pains when I didn’t want to join the Air Force right out of high school. Like Jackson, I was stubborn and hard-headed and went against my elder’s advice, who only wanted the best for me. While my journey wasn’t anywhere near as intense as Jackson’s, the character does have a relatable storyline.
Andie MacDowell and Frank Grillo provide solid supporting work as Jackson’s parents in roles that both actors could excel in while sleeping. The most surprising of the supporting cast for me was George Lopez as Texas Ranger Ramirez. While Lopez has shown some dramatic range in indie films such as Spare Parts and River Runs Red, the actor is primarily known for comedic work. Similar to his performance in River Runs Red, Lopez sheds away any signs of comedy. In fact, I can’t ever recall the actor smiling once in the film. I also want to commend actor Andrés Delgado who is downright terrifying as a thug hunting Jackson down. I hope Hollywood takes note and gives the actor more roles in the future.
Initially, I enjoyed No Man’s Land, and the film does say a lot about the assumptions we can all make when it comes to race. Jake Allyn carries the movie pretty well and his brother Jake who directs, provides some beautiful shots of Texas and Mexico. My main gripe is the film is a bit overlong and does end on a rather predictable note. Nevertheless, I am mildly recommending the movie for fans of Westerns and family dramas.
Final Grade: C+
No Man’s Land Opens in Select Theaters, on Digital Platforms and VOD tomorrow, January 22nd