January 22nd, 2021
MOVIE: NO MAN’S LAND
STARRING: JAKE ALLYN, FRANK GRILLO, ANDIE MACDOWELL, GEORGE LOPEZ
DIRECTED BY: CONOR ALLYN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
No Man’s Land is obviously a passion project of the acting, writing, and directing team of brothers Jake and Conor Allyn. Although it’s commendable for the pair to make movies and tell stories they find interesting, it doesn’t help when the material focuses too much on raising their talents, instead of everyone around them. Take the cast, which features Frank Grillo, Andie MacDowell, and George Lopez, but seems hell bent on letting them hang out in the background, while the Allyn brothers take over. No Man’s Land is a tale of family strife, inspired by the location between the U.S. and Mexican border where the law blends, and where one mistake shatters two families. That would usually be enough, but No Man’s Land wanders too much into the desert, and forgets to make it a story we want to care about.
The main characters are the Greer family, with father Bill (Grillo) running the ranch, while mother Monica (MacDowell) preps meals inside, and two sons Lucas (Alex MacNicoll) and Jackson (Jake Allyn) enjoy racing one another on their beautiful horses. It’s a happy family and Jackson has the prospect of a contract with the New York Yankees minor league system. Things are good. And then, when a family of four, Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez), mother Lupe, sons Fernando (Alessio Valentini) and Luis (Andres Delgado) trespass into the Greer’s ranch land, there’s a misunderstanding, a struggle, Lucas is shot, and when Jackson tries to help, he ends up shooting Fernando. A teenage boy is dead, Lucas is in the hospital, and this sends Jackson running away from Texas ranger Ramirez (George Lopez). It becomes a fight for survival across borders, a manhunt, and a journey for forgiveness.
Typically a narrative of this nature might elicit some excitement, it is a long chase, and when Gustavo commissions a violent drug dealer to help track Jackson, it leads to some shootout moments, but outside of this, there’s not much to No Man’s Land. For Jackson it involves meeting people along the way, a brother and sister that take him in after he helps train their horse, a woman and her son that Jackson reads to, and plenty of stops at small ponds to drink dirty water. The majority of this trek is miserable, depressing, and lacking in any clear message.
For director Conor Allyn his work is admirable, trying to capture the landscapes, attempting to move the narrative from point to point, without digging into subplots. Sadly the problem lies in the screenplay by Jake Ally and David Barraza, which fails to explain the point of Jackson’s escape till late, and when the narrative arrives at the result it’s not the right result. Midway through I wanted Jackson to just turn himself in and when George Lopez finally catches up with him, his police work is less than stellar. It’s not till much later, when Jackson finds a phone to call his mother and father where the star power of Grillo and MacDowell comes back, but by then we’ve already slogged through the journey of Jackson.
On top of all those problems, No Man’s Land plays more like a sympathy party for the white family that feels bad for killing Mexican immigrants, instead of focusing on those taking on the struggle of risking it all for the American dream. I’m reminded as to why I loved Michael Polish’s film Nona, which captured the full experience of a woman escaping terror in her country, with the added horrors of what could happen to her along the way. That story has depth and elicits a sense of human empathy. No Man’s Land meanders, attempts to have a cathartic ending, but just left me feeling cold and empty. I’d say this movie got lost somewhere between America and Mexico.
NO MAN’S LAND IS AVAILABLE IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND JANUARY 22ND
Written by: Leo Brady