Review: 'No Man's Land' succumbs to lazy plot mechanics
Courtesy of IFC
Conor Allyn’s “No Man’s Land” has its heart in the right place: an earnest tale of seeing both sides of every story, and reaching across the aisle to mend differences. But the film gets bogged down by lazy plot mechanics, including a half-minded redemption narrative that never takes off and cartoonish protagonists too illogical for audiences to take seriously.
So is the tale of “No Man’s Land” which follows Jackson (Jake Allyn) a proud rancher living in Texas with his pops (a wasted Frank Grillo who literally never changes hairstyles) while gearing up to try out for the New York Yankees. Though he doesn’t want to leave loyal horse, Sundance, or his mother and big brother behind, sometimes destiny comes calling. And in his case, a reckoning comes when he accidentally shoots a young boy crossing the Mexican border or “no man’s land” illegally.
This sends Jackson on the run after the boy’s father Gustavo (Jorge A. Jimenez) decides to pursue his own form of justice despite the young rancher trying to make amends for his crime. Also on the hunt is a Texas Ranger (George Lopez) trying to bring Jackson home safely, though that’s easier said than done. Evading capture. and taking down a group of coyotes led by an insidious Luis (Andres Delgado), Jackson gets taken in by another family - and strikes up a courtship with daughter Victoria (Esmeralda Pimentel) - trying to lay low while the guilt of killing the young child eats away at him. An emotion that Allyn, unfortunately, struggles to convey.
“No Man’s Land” is more frustrating than fulfilling, and the pacing slugs from one sequence to the next, but at least it never forgets the message of unity, an attribute to Jake Allyn and David Barraza’s screenplay. That doesn’t stop Jackson and Luis’ characters from making eye rolling decisions, including one last minute hail mary where the latter ruins a solid moment of empathic grace. Throw in the immigration crisis that’s become a pressure cooking topic these last few years, and “No Man’s Land” comes awfully close to getting its finger on the trigger of the political climate, but it never leans into those ideologies enough to make a lasting impression.
NO MAN’S LAND is now playing in select theaters and available via on-demand/digital platforms