The death-by-bludgeoning that occurs in the opening scene of Transpecos feels like an apt metaphor for the film itself. Greg Kwedar's desert thriller loves fire and brimstone, giving three border patrol agents a near-biblical reckoning of conscious and spirit over the course of one 24-hour time period.
Set on a desolate stretch of West Texas land known for drug smuggling routes and unrelenting weather, the film uses its harsh environment to produce an otherworldly sense of menace. Early on, veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins Jr.) predicts trouble on the horizon thanks to the gusting wind.
Moments later, a suspicious vehicle rolls up to their checkpoint, and upon the threat of inspection, attempts to escape. The ensuing gunfire leaves younger agents Flores (Gabriel Luna) and Davis (Johnny Simmons) in a sticky situation reminiscent of a classic film noir.
Kwedar's lean set-up illuminates the drug cartel's almost supernatural ability to corrupt American national security through intimidation (if only we had a gigantic border wall to protect us). Even the most "heroic" archetypes are lame gazelle waiting to be picked off by an unseen lion.
Transpecos grapples with this reality, and how it impacts codes of professionalism and masculinity in friendships between first responders. Much of the heated conversations between Flores and Davis devolve over this issue.
Each man begins to recognize the futility of their own actions despite help they receive from empathetic supporting characters. One mesmerizing scene involving a Mayan woman and a makeshift operation hints at a far more complicated version of reality pushed to the fringes.
Thunderously obvious lines of dialogue emanate from each characters mouth. "We put the borders here," is the thesis of one self-righteous speech. This speaks to the problematic split personality of Transpecos, which opens Friday, Sept. 16, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. Eventually, it comes across as a toned down Sicario offering very little beyond veiled cynicism and beleaguered attempts at social relevance.
Blair Witch: Maryland’s infamous Black Hills Forest once again plays host to a number of supernatural horrors in this new reboot from director Adam Wingard (The Guest).
Bridget Jones’s Baby: Renée Zellweger reprises her role as the romantically disillusioned Londoner who meets a dashing new beau and unexpectedly gets pregnant.
Elevator to the Gallows: Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet star as secret lovers whose murder scheme goes terribly wrong due to a series of fateful events and bad luck in Louis Malle’s brilliant debut film from 1958. Opens Friday, Sept. 16, at the Ken Cinema.
Kampaii: For the Love of Sake: This documentary investigates the traditional world of sake, Japanese rice wine, through the eyes of three outsiders. Screens through Thursday, Sept. 22, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Mr. Church: Eddie Murphy stars as a talented chef who befriends a young girl and her cancer-stricken mother, acting as their cook during hard times and the good.
Snowden: Oliver Stones dissects the life and career of famous NSA hacker/whistle blower Edward Snowden in this expansive (and sure to be controversial) biopic.
The Fallen Idol: Carol Reed’s 1948 London-set film noir concerns the shady dealings of a butler whose wife has “accidentally” fallen to her death, the only witness being an impressionable young boy. Opens Friday, Sept. 16, at the Ken Cinema.
Transpecos: A trio of border patrol agents find themselves in a sticky situation after they confiscate a large load of cocaine at a West Texas checkpoint. Screens through Thursday, Sept. 22, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
When Two Worlds Collide: Indigenous environmental activists take on corporate polluters destroying the Amazon rainforest in this social justice documentary. Screens through Thursday, Sept. 22, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
White Girl: After a night of hard partying goes wrong, a young woman tries to do everything she can to win back the affections of her former lover. Opens Friday, Sept. 16, at Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
One Time Only
Blazing Saddles: In honor of the late Gene Wilder, go see Mel Brooks’ hilarious Western spoof that still feels fresh today. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
When Harry Met Sally: Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan star in this iconic rule-breaking romantic comedy about the long-gestating sexual tensions between two friends. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, Sept. 15 – 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: A cocky high school senior (Matthew Broderick) decides to skip school with some friends and ends up having the day of his life. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Arclight Cinemas La Jolla.
The Goonies: With their families on the precipice of eviction, a group of stalwart young friends set out on a journey to find the local buried treasure long considered lost. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.