- Staff report
Do Cowboys Even Exist Anymore?
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
BY LEONEL A. REYES - This is a “modern western” film from the Allyn family. Jake Allyn serves as the producer and stars as the main character Jackson. Meanwhile, his brother (Conor Allyn) and father (Rob Allyn) also served as producers while Conor doubled as the director for the film.
Jake Allyn (L) and Andie MacDowell star in the western, No Man's Land.
Photo courtesy IMDB.com.
The movie tells a western revenge story we’ve already seen before from classics like Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Unforgiving’ but throws us a couple of twists that shake things up just enough to make the film interesting.
The film centers on the Greer family who owns a ranch in No Man’s Land (a sort of border gap between the U.S. and Mexico that is both officially and unofficially part of the U.S.). The Greer family frequently has to deal with illegals crossing and taking from their land but on one ill-fated night, Jackson Greer accidentally shoots and kills one of the children trying to cross the border.
Full of grief Jackson evades the authorities and leaves for Mexico where he has to deal with his guilt along with the child’s vengeful father Gustavo (played by Jorge A. Jimenez). While in Mexico Jackson learns a few valuable lessons about the land and the people there. All while trying to seek some sort of forgiveness from Gustavo.
Right from the bat one of the film’s greatest strengths is its setting. The Allyn brothers grew up taking trips across the border with their father, so they have a fairly good idea of the land and this shows in the film.
Throughout the film, you will get mayor Texan and Mexican ranchero vibes that will be comforting to people who’ve grown up in the borderland. If you’re from El Paso you’ll feel right at home with how the characters speak and you may even get a bit of an appetite from the Mexican food shown on screen.
This careful crafting the Allyn family showed in the story’s setting translates relatively well into the film’s cinematography. The film’s cinematographer is Juan Pablo Ramírez who has worked before on Latino films like ‘Chicuarotes’ and even worked on 2015’s ‘Desierto’. His previous knowledge for sure aiding him in illustrating the beauty that the desert and Mexico have to offer.
The film’s cinematography helps show the warmth and harshness of the desert while even showcasing the beauty of Mexico’s forest. In the film, you even get some beautiful shots of the city of Guanajuato.
All of this comes together to help progress the character of Jackson who previously had a poor understanding of the Mexican land and culture. By the end of the movie, you can tell that Jackson has grown fond of Mexico and there is a certain charm to this sort of character progression.
To say the least, the movie’s biggest strength is that you can really feel the culture shown on camera.
Now as good as the setting itself is a setting can’t carry a movie and this is where some of the problems start to appear. The plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in some areas.
For example, when we see Jackson evade the authorities it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as to why he would start running away. Logistically speaking it doesn’t make much sense as to why the character would run away instead of cooperating with the authorities. This may be due to the acting in the film though.
The acting in this film feels subpar except for the notable exceptions of George Lopez as Texas Ranger Ramirez and Frank Grillo as the father of the family Bill Greer. These two actors delivered pretty good performances and made me believe in the actions of their characters. As for Jake Allyn’s performance as the character Jackson. Let’s just say the 30-year-old actor may have bitten more than he could chew.
In an IFC Film interview, the Allyn brothers mentioned that the character Jackson was supposed to be in a sort of “no man’s land” emotionally. Frankly, though Jake Allyn’s performance doesn’t really showcase this emotional turmoil. Jake Allyn’s performance and the rest of the casts except for the mentioned exceptions are just okay-ish really.
The truth is that this movie does offer pretty good entertainment with a couple of caveats.
You get an amazing setting for the story, but the acting is kind of bland. You have a compelling theme of humans trying to understand each other and be more forgiving but there are a few things in the plot that make no sense. Lastly, there was a good number of times when this movie felt like a telenovela.
Which will either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste. This is really the type of movie that you rent out on a streaming service, turn off your brain a bit, and enjoy with your favorite movie snack.
You certainly won’t be missing out on much if you watch it at home over a movie theatre. As for the question, “Do cowboys even exist anymore?” The answer is yes however the modern cowboy will have to try harder than this to become as memorable as its predecessors.
For this reason, I give this film 3/5 stars.