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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 12, 2021



WESTERNS are films, novels and TV shows set in the old American Western frontier about cowboys and bandits and the taming of the so-called Wild West when lawlessness was rampant. 

We’re a great fan of westerns and our favorites as a kid in the 50s are “Shane” with Alan Ladd, “The Left Handed Gun” with Paul Newman, “Gunfight in the OK Corral” with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, “The Searchers” with John Wayne.

As a young man, we saw the neo-westerns like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Wild Bunch”, and Clint Eastwood’s so-called spaghetti westerns filmed in Italy that made his career. 

We also searched for classic westerns that we missed as a boy and saw the classic “Stagecoach” (really one of the best, by John Ford), “High Noon” with Gary Cooper, “Red River” with John Wayne and Monty Clift, “Destry Rides Again” with James Stewart.

We haven’t seen a western for quite sometime, so we checked out this new one, “Apache Junction”, written and directed by Justin Lee, who has previously done “Badland”, another Western set after the American Civil War that was a hit when shown in Netflix last year.

A reporter from a newspaper in San Francisco, Annabelle Angel (Scout Taylor-Compton known for horror flicks like “Halloween”, “The Lurker” and “Penance Lane” ), volunteers to go to Apache Junction to write an investigative report about this frontier town in Arizona in the early 1880s. 

A fresh blonde beauty, it’s easy to see she is a fish out of water and will quickly be the target of the lawless men who populate the town. 

On her first night in town, she quickly sees the shooting of a man while playing a card game in the town’s saloon. 

The head of the town’s army post in charge of looking after the town, Capt. Hensley (Trace Adkins, a country music singer who is now the co-star of Inigo Pascual in the coming Fox TV series, “Monarch”), has earlier warned her that the town is a dangerous haven for outlaws.

 Capt. Hensley adds that he and his men won’t be able to give her any protection. It turns out that his soldiers are actually the first ones who will prey on Annabelle while she’s looking for the town’s river. 

But before they can molest her, a stranger, Jericho Ford (Stuart Townsend, looking like a young Clint Eastwood), rescues her. 

He shoots the three soldiers but one survives and tells their chief that Annabelle was kidnapped by a man who also killed his companions in an ambush, which is a very big lie, of course. 

It turns out one of the dead soldiers is a son of Capt. Hensley, so he is compelled to hunt Jericho to make him pay. He declares: “I want him dead or alive. Dead is preferable.”

Also after Jericho is Oslo Pike (Ed Morrone), a gambler and gunslinger who is a lightning draw wanting to challenge Jericho into a showdown to further boost his reputation. 

So he gladly takes the offer of Capt. Hensley in hunting down Jericho.

Jericho takes Annabelle to his friend, Wasco (Ricky Lee Regan), a Native American, who often fondly scolds him. Wasco is one of Jericho’s two friends who are always ready to help him. 

The other one is Al Longfellow (Thomas Jane), who owns the town’s bar. 

If you haven’t seen too many westerns before, then you might enjoy this. 

But for an old fogey like us who have seen all the classic ones, “Apache Junction” is quite derivative. Many of the tropes and cliche elements in it are quite familiar as we have already seen them before in old-fashioned oaters about the good guys versus the bad guys. 

It’s like the director made a list of the highlights from past westerns then included them in “Apache Junction”, like the barroom brawl, the whore with a heart of gold, the usual damsel in distress, the wise old Indian friend, the upstart gunslinger who wants to prove that he is the best in the west, and of course, the climactic final gunplay-duel showdown set in the middle of the street immortalized by Fred Zinneman in “High Noon”.

For a gritty, lawless type of western, we notice that the costumes are mostly quite new. 

The wardrobe worn by most characters are just too clean, specially the prostitute who’s even wearing too much make up and has a gorgeous hairdo, with a fashionable outfit it at that which doesn’t differentiate her at all from the reporter who is supposed to be the main protagonist.

Also, the film’s ending is “bitin”. After the gunslinger who challenged Jericho Ford makes an exit, we were kind of expecting he’ll next be hounded by Chief Hensley who wants revenge for his dead son, but this never happens and the film just ended with the reporter being able to publish her article about “Apache Town” and getting commendation from her editor for a job well done.