For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, TX, from Piedras Negras, MX, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way of life.

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For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, TX, from Piedras Negras, MX, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way of life.

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A Boring Slice of Life on Texas Border
14 March 2015 | by (Austin, TX, United States) – See all my reviews

I was looking forward to seeing Western at Austin SXSW Film Festival, but frankly I came away deeply disappointed. Like their previous film 45365, the film seemed pointless. I found myself shifting in my seat and looking at the time on my phone and wondering when the film would be over and if anything would ever actually happen. The film has no story, no direction and no dramatic arc to the narrative. Many of its scenes could have been filmed almost anywhere in America – at least in rural America. We see a small town mayor speaking in platitudes about US-Mexican cooperation and a rancher trying to raise his young daughter. Yes, there was a rodeo and a sick cow with diarrhea. Is their point that Eagle Pass, TX is pretty much like anywhere else in America? The film is supposedly about the drug war in Mexico and its impact on Eagle Pass, but that subtext is poorly explored. Some of the people talk about it and seem to play it down and seem angry that the government has prevented the importation of Mexican cattle. But with no narration, no experts to provide context to the film there seems to be little point. There is nothing to really learn and I didn't feel better informed when I left the film than when I went in. As in 45365, the film seems overly romantic and uncritical of the problems of small town life. Everything just seems to be hunky-dory. There is no real critical lens to understand the problems of Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, Mexico. While the camera work was often quite beautiful and there was an artistic quality to it, I don't think art is valuable for its own sake unless it is attempting to express profound idea or ask serious questions about our society. Western did neither. A picture of a bird may be pretty, but I can look out my window and see that. I admit this sort of work is inherently subjective and others might find Western enjoyable, but this observer was disappointed and frustrated by these obviously talented filmmakers who don't seem to be applying their talents in a manner that is worthy of their technical skills.


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