Apache Junction, 2021.
Written and Directed by Justin Lee.
Starring Stuart Townsend, Scout Taylor-Compton, Trace Adkins, Thomas Jane, Ed Morrone, Victoria Pratt, Edward Finlay, Danielle Gross, and Phil Burke.
Apache Junction is an Old West outpost of lawlessness, a haven for thieves and cold-blooded killers. When big-city reporter Annabelle Angel arrives in town and becomes a target, notorious gunslinger Jericho Ford comes to her aid. Now, Annabelle must entrust her future to a man with a deadly past as Jericho heads toward a tense showdown.
It’s hard to fathom how a late 19th century Wild West tale involving gunslingers and betrayal could be so devoid of excitement and be executed with such lackadaisical craft, but such is the case with writer/director Justin Lee’s Apache Junction. It’s a Western where nearly every scene unnecessarily goes on for roughly 5 minutes at a time, conveying plot developments, exposition, or details that should have gotten across within 30 seconds and with a dash of energy. No one is asking for the likes of country singer Trace Adkins and Stuart Townsend to turn in revelatory performances, but everyone here seems bored and lifeless. Apache Junction is a brutally slow, meandering watch.
There is some promise in the beginning, as the narrative centers on San Francisco Examiner journalist Annabelle Angel (Scout Taylor-Compton) entering the titular lawless land. As soon as she arrives on the scene, there are various stares from men and women alike, wondering what would bring someone independent and proper to a place where most women are prostitutes or dehumanized in some fashion. It’s an admirable premise to juxtapose an empowered figure with such ruthless living conditions, and the story does allow for Annabelle to wield the gun occasionally, but her investigative integrity and purpose predominantly take a backseat to men killing each other off.
Annabelle is under the impression that Apache Junction is a wasteland for criminals of all kinds that the military is trying to get under control. Once she starts conducting some research, the truth reveals itself to be the other way around. She comes into contact with notorious outlaw Jericho Ford (Stuart Townsend, as dry and bland an action star if there ever was one), who ends up as an advisor and a protector. At the very least, he gets to have an amusing bar fight early on that makes use of the environment during the fighting (banging someone’s head off of nearby piano keys), although it’s just as static and dull for the most part as everything else. Whether hand-to-hand combat or shootouts, everything feels staged like an outdated video game, as if dodge and cover buttons should appear on the screen.
Nevertheless, the point is driven home despite his marksmanship with a gun and reputation for murder, Jericho Ford is a well-meaning human being simply trying to carve out a life with his beloved Mary Primm (Danielle Gross). However, as Annabelle pokes her nose around, she finds herself entangled and cornered by some particularly nasty men that Jericho defends her from. It turns out that one of those (now dead) assailants was the son of Captain Hensley (Trace Adkins), who wants revenge. Cue generic plotting of various henchmen trying to take down Jericho, including another well-known assassin named Oslo Pike (Ed Morrone), who seems to enjoy having a formidable challenge and will do the deed for Hensley in return for a path to an easier life.
All of this leads to a damsel in distress, murdered friends (you know you have a bad movie when even threats of physical torture don’t even generate a reaction), and stale climactic shootouts (not limited to some of the strangest rules I’ve ever seen for a quickdraw duel). If nothing else, Apache Junction is competently made with nothing about it sticking out as outlandishly terrible, but considering how tedious the exercise is, there is reason to wish it was that hilarious kind of awful. The film’s one decent idea about studying a female journalist observing and painting truths about the famed Apache Junction is entirely wasted, Which is a shame since Scout Taylor-Compton is nonetheless taking the role seriously and trying to give the character a degree of depth.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com