‘No Man’s Land’ Review: Leaving Home, Learning Tolerance
Strangled by good intentions and teachable-moment clichés, Conor Allyn’s “No Man’s Land” turns the border between Texas and Mexico into a gateway to racial empathy.
When Jackson Greer (Jake Allyn, the director’s brother) accidentally kills a young Mexican boy during a chaotic confrontation near his family’s ranch, his father (Frank Grillo) tries to take the blame. A suspicious Texas Ranger (George Lopez) isn’t buying it, though, so Jackson takes off on horseback, crossing the Rio Grande and heading south into Mexico. What follows is less a flight from justice than a journey of moral redemption and attitude realignment.
Wracked with guilt and haunted by visions of the dead boy, Jackson begins a slow and sensitive awakening. As he interacts with the Mexican families who feed him and offer him work, the film’s meandering middle section is marked by moments of gentle humanity and arid beauty. Brief dust-ups with various pursuers — law enforcement; a lanky, leering coyote — barely mar Jackson’s leading-man looks and beseeching gaze, both of which help endear him to the lovely woman (Esmeralda Pimentel) who facilitates his ongoing escape.
Relying on music to build a tension that’s missing from the script, the director, who grew up between Texas and Mexico, is unable to moderate his impulses. So when Jackson risks his life to confront the dead boy’s enraged father (Jorge A. Jiménez), his penitence has more than a touch of the sacrificial. By the end, “No Man’s Land” is so thickly blanketed in a plea for comity that virtually every act of kindness feels like a step toward saving Jackson’s soul.
No Man’s Land
Rated PG-13 for guns, knives and a hint of drugs. Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes. In theaters. Also available to rent or buy on Amazon, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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