When a young San Francisco journalist named Annabelle Angel (Scout Taylor-Compton) shows up in the Arizona town of Apache Junction circa 1881, she’s got everything to prove and a rigorous and hard US Army captain (Trace Adkins) who seemingly wants to stop her from doing so. Annabelle works for Hearst, y’all, and she volunteered to hit the Wild West to document the lives of bounty hunters, the nearby Army folks, the Natives in the area and so forth, but when she unwittingly gets swept up in the world of one Jericho Ford (Stuart Townsend) and his trusty best pal Wasco (Ricky Lee Regan, whom SFR interviewed recently; 3 Questions, Sept. 1), telling the story becomes something else entirely.
Bounty hunters, soldiers and bandit gangs come together to take our heroine down—as does a nefarious gunslinger by the name of Oslo Pike (Ed Morrone)—but with Ford and Wasco keeping that chivalry dream alive, you can bet your 10-gallon hat there’s gonna be shootouts and standoffs and stuff.
Director/writer Justin Lee (Final Kill) comes out swinging with his ode to the classic Western. Apache Junction looks and feels contemporary in its cinematography and pacing, but story-wise, character-wise, sense-of-place-wise, Lee clearly did his homework on the Golden Age of Hollywood. To wit: Townsend’s loner-with-a-gun thing hits all the right beats, particularly in his sense of right and wrong (find any essays on the hero’s journey and/or light-versus-dark), but with a sort of effortless charm that recalls the genre’s greats; Thomas Jane is pitch-perfect as the saloon owner.
By comparison, Regan’s Native sidekick role comes correct with a dose of compassion and humanity; perhaps even representing the last good bit of Ford’s soul if we wanna get philosophical here. Sadly, though, like most Native characters in film, Regan doesn’t get enough to do and certainly not enough dialogue—a pity given his pedigree with Oklahoma’s American Indian Theater Company. Still, he strikes a satisfying balance between compassion and badassery. Same goes for Mary (Danielle Gross), an enigmatic citizen of Apache Junction who sees the looming tide of proper civilization as a sad inevitability. Gross’ take on heartache over something she hasn’t quite lost yet is one of the more compelling pieces of the puzzle, though it does overshadow Taylor-Compton’s wide-eyed newcomer.
Still, when the dynamite’s tossed and the explosions punctuate the flying bullets, Apache Junction works. Seems like every few years we get a decent Western making the rounds, and this is that, even if a little more character development would have worked wonders. Can’t really beat those sunsets and landscapes, though.
+Fun stuff; cool characters; cinematography
-Too much telling, not enough showing
Directed by Lee
With Townsend, Regan, Taylor-Compton, Gross and Jane
Apple TV+, R, 94 min.