You know we’re all human beings, just trying to survive in the world. Deep down, we’re all the same right? Is that true? Are we the same as our sworn enemies? Even those that live thousands of miles away?
Erich Kemp’s My Stretch of Texas Ground takes the terrorist fighting story and attempts to humanize it. After almost twenty years in Afghanistan and a promise to leave by President Trump, we’re still there. People are still dying overseas, and the United States is still behind it all.
Our story opens somewhere in the Middle East, where a group of radical, Islamic terrorist leaders meet to end the conflict once and for all. They plan to assassinate a political leader in the United States. President Trump would be too difficult, so they choose Texas Republican Senator Cruthers (Mike Gassaway), a staunch proponent of the U.S. war in the Middle East.
It’s an almost impossible mission with only one man able to pull it off, Abdul Latif Hassan (Junes Zahdi). Heartbroken by the never-ending conflict, Hassan agrees to the job for a minimal amount of money and mobilizes his U.S. assets.
Meanwhile, in the town of Arlettsville, Texas, is Sheriff Joe Haladin (Jeff Weber). Hanging out with his redneck friends watching an MMA fight, Sheriff Joe is disgusted by the fact we’re still in Afghanistan and his friends challenge his support of those “towelheads.” While not politically-aligned with his community, Joe is a respected sheriff. Everyone loves him except his son Tommy (Caleb Duane), who’s locked in his room playing video games.
“They plan to assassinate a political leader in the United States. President Trump would be too difficult…”
Next, we find Hassan with an immigrant family illegally crossing the Southern border in a coyote’s van. Hassan has compassion for the family and gives them his last bottle of water, wishing good luck to them. Soon, border patrol catches up with the van and Hassan kills the agents and escapes.
News of the attack on border patrol makes its way to Washington and the FBI, who immediately puts Hassan on the most wanted list. The resourceful Hassan makes his way to Washington where he infiltrates a press conference for Senator Cruthers himself. Masquerading as a writer for the Charlotte Times (?), he meets his co-worker at the paper who has no idea who he is.
Back to Arlettsville, Hasan and gang successfully kidnap the Senator. Something happens to cause the sheriff to go after the terrorists himself. When word gets out, the FBI forbids Sheriff Joe from getting directly involved in the search, no matter how personal this is.
On paper, this actually sounds like a pretty good action film. Instead, you’re going to walk away feeling like you’ve seen more of a soap opera than an action film and a political soap opera at that. The well-meaning intentions of the film are clear. The two lead characters, Hassan and Sheriff Joe, are not that much different from one another. They care deeply for their people and their country. Hassan is not the barbarian of right-wing propaganda but has compassion for women and children. Sheriff Joe is not the typical racist Texan of left-wing propaganda. So maybe we should reconsider our entire policy in the Middle East.
“…if you’re going to go out of your way to alienate your intended audience, then you’re preaching to the choir.”
Good intentions don’t always translate well onto film. My Stretch of Texas Ground takes a decidedly Progressive Left bent to its story. Only one real person is mentioned in the film, and that’s President Trump and done so as a rage trigger. Another problem I have with movies, that leans too far to the left or right, is its portrayal of their political adversaries. Their dialogue and actions are based on what the left thinks people on the right actually do and say. Of course, Senator Cruthers has to use racist slang toward the Mexican workers at the gas station, because that’s what those Republicans do. Look this happens in conservative films and its equally annoying.
Politics aside, this is an action film. Hassan is an interesting antagonist with his dashing good looks and perfect English accent. He manages to blend in with his surroundings and stay one step ahead of the law and aside from being a trained killer, he has a moral center. There’s also not a lot of action. The action that’s there is fine but underwhelming. The acting is not the greatest either. It does feel like soap opera acting with over-the-top emotional moments, especially between Sheriff Joe and his son Tommy. My favorite moment is with Joe and his wife Carrie (Hailley Lauren). Carrie says the U.S. doesn’t kill children, and Joe reminds her of the kids killed in Waco. Oh boy!
This is an independent film. Director Kemp makes good use of his locations and made the most of his limited resources. There is a great deal of guerilla filmmaking, and a lot of the techniques employed work for the most part. The third act was probably the most difficult, primarily because it takes place at night. Lighting while outdoors is almost next to impossible unless you have a lot of money and though flawed, Kemp made a decent attempt.
Fundamentally, My Stretch of Texas Ground is trying to do some good and force us to empathize with a war happening on the other side of the planet and with a group of people we see from TV satellites. But if you’re going to go out of your way to alienate your intended audience, then you’re preaching to the choir.
My Stretch of Texas Ground (2019) Directed by Erich Kemp. Written by Ralph Cinque. Starring Jeff Weber, Junes Zahdi, Hailley Lauren, Mike Gassaway.
5 out of 10 stars