The Stolen Valley

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer and Director: Jesse Edwards

Lupe goes to the wrong pawn shop to exchange Navajo jewellery for a gun when she leaves home to ask the father she never knew she had for money to pay for her dying mother’s cancer treatment. While trying out a pistol for size she gets caught in a shoot-out between rodeo cowgirl Maddy and some tough guys. After accidentally firing a bullet into the pawnshop owner’s foot Lupe flees with Maddy. But this tale of two women on the run is no Thelma and Louise.

Jesse Edwards’ film, shifting inelegantly from comedy to violence and then, finally, to sentimentality, charts the journey of Lupe and Maddy as they get caught and escape and get caught and escape. They are hunted down by two gangs of men: one is headed by Lupe’s father who wants nothing to do with his daughter, refusing to hand over the deed that proves the land he has just sold to an oil company belongs to her mother. The other gang, Maddy’s enemies, is led by a Mexican gangster. There are car chases, motorcycle chases, gun fights, fires and even flamenco. But none of it is remotely exciting.

And neither are the cigar-smoking villains in any way sinister, despite the actors’ attempts to look moody and mean. Micah Fitzgerald as Lupe’s father appears to channel Daryl from The Walking Dead, speaking slowly and gruffly, as if his soft manner conceals murderous intent, but the script is full of clichés, and, as a result, he is completely unconvincing. Maddy’s nemesis rambles on about the importance of family and then disappears from the narrative.

The women fare only marginally better. Car mechanic Lupe starts off as an innocent but in only a few hours becomes a bad-ass gun-toting gaucho. Briza Covarrubias tries her best with her character’s new swell in confidence, but Lupe is difficult to believe in. Allee Sutton Hethcoat, long blonde hair cascading out of her Stetson, is miscast as cowgirl Maddy who’s determined not to care for anyone because no one cares for her. That is until an implausible plot twist, right out of Victorian literature, makes her think again.

The film’s only saving grace is that it is shot well and the desert scenes are stunning, the light bright with all the yellow and blues. And it’s interesting to see a film that is so focused on family values also has fathers, sons and daughters shooting at each other, although all are comically a bad shot. Of course, the USA’s acquisition of Native American Land is an important issue, but this silly neo-Western does the campaign to get the lands back a disservice.

TheStolenValley will be available on Digital Download from 15th April.

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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