Directed by: #ErichKemp
Written by: #RalphCinque
In the fallout since the 2003 Iraq war, tensions remain and the ripple effect of the political and ethical immorality at the centre of it keeps aggressively expanding. Since the hostilities and conflict, even more death, attacks and damage continues to make headlines and the world has grown increasingly uneasy, with every advancement seemingly being dragged back by suffering. It is little wonder that so many films have picked up on the debates and the issues of this controversial modern war to tell true and fictional stories alike onscreen. However, it is not always common that the films tread a fine line in the stance they take but #ErichKemp’s #MyStretchofTexasGround admirably aims to do just that.
The film tells the story of a terrorist plot to make a statement by assassinating a Texan senator (#MikeGassaway) who has been vocal about the fighting overseas. Tasked with carrying out this deadly mission is accomplished Islamic warrior Abdul Latif Hassan (#JunesZahdi) but in the shape of resilient Sheriff Joe Haladin (#JeffWeber), Hassan’s assignment faces unexpected interference. Taken at face value, this premise could well unfurl into a jingoistic glorificatory hate-fest (ala #LondonHasFallen) but #RalphCinque’s generous script refuses to let that happen.
What we have here is an admirable story of a good American man defending his turf and a vengeful man who feels the pain of war and loss. Both characters are in some ways quite similar (Sheriff Joe immediately has a slightly unpopular view on the conflict that is refreshing to see on the screen) and Cinque’s screenplay is driven to actually debate the root of the problem, as opposed to presenting lazy stereotypes or xenophobia. There is a point being made and a very important one at that, in how terrorism is allowed to flourish through violence, injustice and ignorance, and how good people are often ignored in favour of an ideology.
Sadly, overall there are a few mixed bag performances and characters (Joe’s partner Carrie - #HailleyLauren - has a strangely erratic personality in the final leg of the film that feels misplaced and strangely spontaneous) but #JeffWeber is likeable as Joe and some of the supporting characters are too, while #JunesZahdi gives the best performance with a few soulful moments. That said, despite a strong script and message and a good performance by Zahdi, the film has some production problems that begin initially niggle, before piling up a lot more heavily and noticeably.
The settings are well chosen but occasionally the film seems to feel a bit clipped in its editing and - especially in the latter half - the lighting becomes distracting and inconsistent, with the continuity flow being distorted. Then there is the sound, which seems to sometimes noticeably audibly jar and certain sound effects (the impact sounds of the final fight and foot steps) don’t quite add up or fit and it can take you out of the action, while the score takes some time to pick up. Nevertheless, there are some strong suites, including nice fight choreography in an early Texan border fight and the bursts of thriller tendencies that are here are oft effective, even if the plot itself gets a tad overstretched with the odd sub-plot (the Sheriff’s tensions with his son) or character.
I respect the filmmakers for their mission here and despite My Stretch of Texas Ground’s problems, I think a few people will appreciate the effort to tell a very worthwhile story at a equally worthwhile time.