- Written and Directed by Brian Presley
- October 31, 2022 (Brazil)
When the children of a POW Union soldier are presumed dead, he must embark on a treacherous journey to get them back.
I’m curious why I subject myself to revisionist Westerns. It is a bit of a mystery to me. Perhaps it is the hope I will find a good one among the vast detritus. The ratio of good that I find though comes out to something like for every 10 I go through I find one or less that are good or rise above the others to be watchable. This is not one of the one. This is one of the other nine.
Hostile Territory is not a movie that I would turn off. But it’s not something I found particularly enjoyable as narratives go. It’s beautifully shot and has decent production values, but it is a bit of a message film and the message is a bit heavy handed. You cannot miss the message that is a bit slapped on at the end. What starts as a narrative about terrible or dysfunctional people struggling takes a left turn and gets a message.
It feels as if it’s beginning to apologize for to Native Americans for westward expansion and their general treatment. And there even seems to be an attempt at a Kumbaya moment where are the characters open an orphanage. That’s what my take away was from it all. Yet there is almost zero of that in the preceding minutes.
As is the norm with Revisionist Westerns everybody has issues of one type or another. And during the course of the movie those issues play into the plot. If these characters would just take a step back and stop being so wrapped up in themselves and their lives all would be better. And nobody they ever encounter during the course of the narrative thinks of saying that.
In this movie POW Jack Calgrove (Brian Presley) presumed dead must make an arduous trek in order to get back as children who have been put on the orphan train and sent out west to be handed out like free candy. It wasn’t an uncommon practice and I’m sure there were quite a few due to the primitive nature of communication technology that got sent away when they should not have been.
His son is sitting in Missouri in the middle of hostile Apache territory having been transferred there as part of the military’s efforts to bring it under control. Calgrove knows this so why not write your son letting him know what is going on and send the kids back. Or just get transferred out to where his son is. There are other options beyond an arduous trip and back.
Never mind that the Apache were not in Missouri in the time of the Old West. I am not looking for historical accuracy even by watching a bad Western you get an idea of where they were. There is a recently freed slave woman in this film who has some skill on horseback and with firearms. No inkling she had done so before but that seems illogical a former slave so soon after the Civil War could do any of that.
The story just drags on and on. That is possibly most of the acting is marginally okay. And the writer/director/star saddles everybody with longwinded speeches that are intended to be deep and emotional but just go on to the point you do not care. Ever listen to somebody else’s problems and you start out interested but because it goes on too long and it’s clear they are the issue you just want them to shut up instead. It is like that here.
A great deal of this film could’ve been edited down. There is so much tossed in to turn a short film into a feature length production that the narrative loses its punch. Rather than building to climax it just kind of strolls to the climax followed by an addendum which is essentially a long apology for race relations.
Hostile Territory is well directed for what it is but good direction does not mean a great film. It just means you did the best with what you had, and the director most certainly does that. But unfortunately a simple basic story is stretched out over a long period to make it into something great when it’s only something okay.
Visual it’s good. It doesn’t look cheap and it is photographed professionally. It clearly is a low cost production but the professional cinematography makes it appear like some cost went into this. That bit of polish does not save the film. It only makes it watchable. Ultimately Hostile Territory is a competently done film that just doesn’t rise to anything great. It just puts itself barely into the realm of okay. I think this is one you can skip.