Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Apache Junction

This crummy Arizona town is a safe harbor for outlaw and cavalry alike. However, the townsfolk have more to fear from those who represent the law than those who live outside it. It is all quite eye-opening for a proper aspiring journalist like Annabellle Angel, who finds herself sympathizing more with the prostitutes than the soldiers. That also means she will side with the somewhat notorious outlaw Jericho Ford in Justin Lee’s Apache Junction, which opens Friday in New York.

When a major San Francisco paper asked for volunteers to cover Apache Junction, Angel was the only one to raise her hand. She knows she is out of her depth, but it is the only way to get her foot in the door. Captain Hensley is openly dismissive of her, but his thuggish men are even worse. Fortunately for her, Ford just happened along at the right time, but leaving three of Hensley’s men dead in his wake ignites a war.

Again, it is just weird to see the bad guys wearing the Union Army uniform in a contemporary western, since they are the ones who beat the Confederates in the Civil War. In this case, Hensley’s men are really, really bad, but Oslo Pike, the scummy gambler-bounty hunter Hensley aligns with, is even worse.

Frankly, the whole idea of Apache Junction functioning as open city doesn’t make much sense and it is really tough to believe Hensley would respect it. However, the premise gives Thomas Jane a few interesting scenes as saloon-keeper Al Longfellow, who serves as the de facto mayor. He is fun to watch chewing the scenery, in a grizzled, drawling kind of way. Also, Danielle Gross is way better than the film deserves portraying Mary Primm, the you-know-what with a heart of gold.

Even though few viewers would probably think to cast Stuart Townsend as a hard-bitten outlaw like Ford, but he does a decent job squinting and swaggering through the picture. Trace Adkins comes off more like a caricature playing Hensley, but what can you expect with that Foghorn Leghorn voice? Ed Morrone is pretty sinister as Pike, but he is a bit too quiet for a primary villain. Unfortunately, Scout Taylor-Compton (the other Laurie Strode is rather mousy and forgettable in the role of Angel.

Lee is the sort of filmmaker who has been suspiciously prolific, having helmed nine films that released in the span of 2018-2021, including the mediocre
Big Legend. It would help if he spent less time packaging and more time rewriting and refining. This time around, most of the ensemble does a pretty nice job, but the narrative and dialogue are just too blah. Not recommended, Apache Junction opens Friday (/24) in New York, at the Cinema Village.