That damned war and those damned Afghan terrorists. That statement effectively sums up my version of this film before I even started watching it. Yet another film on terrorists wrapped up as an action flick or thriller. All the players are here, right on the poster. A terrorist made up to look American, a law man in a big white cowboy hat and some guy in a suit. Unless you're putting together a reality show or documentary, the poster simply screams of a situation and story we keep seeing over and over again. A politically motivated hate film. At least... that's what I thought... and I was wrong.
To pay for the sins committed by the United States Government - against the non combative people of Afghanistan, a small team of terrorists are sent to Texas. Knowing that a presidential assassination would surely never succeed, a republican senator is chosen as the intended target. A very public supporter of the Middle Eastern war. The plan? Capture Senator Cruthers and execute him - for the world to see. Like any other good action film, we also have a hero. Perhaps slightly cliche at first glance, Sheriff Joe Haladin turns out not to be the stereotypical racist Texan. It's also worth noting that he's also not, the cliche peace and love to all kind of person either. "My Stretch Of Texas Ground" sets itself up to be just another spit in the bucket, when it comes to the expected behavior of good guy Vs bad guy - but ends up being so much more.
What this film really is... is a movie about people. A very human group of folks who when it comes down to it, try and live right - and stand up to the proverbial bully. Although it sounds like the plot is massive, it's really not. No matter what happens, the world definitely will not end. What unfolds onscreen would have absolutely no effect at all on the world stage. The stakes are smaller and much more personal. Ralph Cinque has written a grand feeling film and managed to keep it real and relatable for the rest of us. No matter what I write below, the jist of this write-up is simple. Maybe not perfect, but "My Stretch Of Texas Ground" was an enjoyable flick that was different enough to warrant mentioning. If you're not interested in the technical babble, skip to the end of this write-up.
Two things I kept thinking about during, and after this movie. The first was that the acting shifted from really good, to massively over dramatic and sometimes, even outright hollow. The troupe themselves are clearly talented people. A few scenes are really, really good. As an example, a standout scene for me was in the final act - as Abdul Latif Hassan, played by Junes Zahdi, gives his speech before the execution of Senator Cruthers - played by Mike Gassaway. What gets to me was this wasn't a one-off. Numerous scenes were all handled expertly, adding credibility to this film and making the cast look pretty darn fine.
Then we have the other hand. Conversations that literally go one, two, one, two. Dialog is messy. It overlaps and clutters up as people get excited. "My Stretch Of Texas Ground" contains a lot of dialog where it literally seems one actor is waiting... for the other to finish their sentence. Very wooden. Very scripted and just unnatural. Also worth noting is that Joe Haladin, played by Jeff Weber, actually seemed to benefit from this kind of dialog. It made for a character who appeared more open and thoughtful. That's something I did notice.
Other than that, I found this film littered with uneven performances and situations that I found outright wrong. Something happens later in the film, that sees Joe's wife spitting in his face. That really bothered me and felt completely out of character and unrealistic. A shove, considering the situation? Sure. A slap? Why not? But a spit in the face? This is something people do when they outright hate something or someone. A deep seeded long term kind of hate. Not something done by someone who loves you. Even at the worst of times. It completely changed the dynamics of everything. Finally? "My Stretch Of Texas Ground" felt long. Really long. I can't help but wonder how many of the issues I addressed above, could have been fixed during the edit. Tighter conversations, a little less filler. A meaner edit would have really focused this movie. In my opinion anyhow.
Don't let any of the technical stuff I wrote of above, make you think this isn't a good movie. Call it what you will, but aside from a little fatigue at the end... I really enjoyed my time here. I enjoyed the more personal stakes, and the fact these characters were not written as completely black and white people. For a low budget production, "My Stretch Of Texas Ground" is an amazing feat. Through the eyes of the casual viewer, who doesn't even know what low budget means, this is still a good movie. Perhaps not the next Oscar contender... but entertaining none the less. A solid three and a half stars.