Transpecos

Transpecos

2016, NR, 86 min. Directed by Greg Kwedar. Starring Gabriel Luna, Clifton Collins Jr., Johnny Simmons, Oscar Avila, David Acord, Alma Martinez.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 9, 2016

There are films in which the landscape is as much a character as the actors moving within it (Malick, Leone, and Antonioni quickly come to mind). Greg Kwedar’s Transpecos has three strong actors, but it is the terrain that ends up dominating this film. A promised wind blows, a sunset pregnant with meaning, and a succession of desolate shots of an unrepentant desert devoid of civilization loom over this tale of three border-patrol agents whose regular routine is rapidly unraveled in a day that tests trust, friendship, and loyalty in a film that hearkens back to Blood Simple-era Coen brothers.

Border-patrol agent Flores (Luna) is teaching youngblood Davis (Simmons) the more subtle methods of tracking a drug mule across the desert as the film begins. Transpecos’ first act lulls you into the daily routine of a job that seems the very definition of tedium. Old guard Hobbs (Collins Jr.) is the archetype of the grizzled veteran, but a seemingly random border stop spirals into murder and mayhem. The three men now must grapple with a complicated mix of loyalties, honor, and consequences. Kwedar’s film does not answer easy questions, and the subsequent fallout is intense and nerve-racking in all the best ways. All three leads bring the goods, but it is Luna, carrying much of the emotional weight of the film, who shines the brightest, showing a depth and countenance well beyond his years. Transpecos is at turns nail-biting, heart-wrenching, and suddenly ruminative; a bit like catching your breath as you realize you almost just fell to your demise when you thought you were just out for a leisurely stroll. It is a minimalistic film that wraps its message up tight: If you want to unpack it, it’s there, in the way these men behave, in the way these men maneuver, in the way you keep emotions close and inaccessible. As the endlessly open landscape unfurls, you realize that this is the soul: naked, open, relentless.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Transpecos
Austin Filmmaker Greg Kwedar On His Acclaimed Thriller <i>Transpecos</i>
Austin Filmmaker Greg Kwedar On His Acclaimed Thriller Transpecos
Blood on the border

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 9, 2016

More Gabriel Luna Films
Freeheld
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are adrift in this gay-rights drama

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 16, 2015

Fall to Grace
Shot in Austin with a mostly local cast and buoyed by a fine, evocative score, Fall to Grace is a quiet little ensemble film that pulses with its own unique heartbeat.

Marc Savlov, June 16, 2006

More by Josh Kupecki
Skid Row Marathon
Homeless runner documentary goes from sleeping rough to pounding the pavement

Feb. 8, 2019

Experimental Response Cinema’s Scott Stark Bids Farewell to Austin
Experimental Response Cinema’s Scott Stark Bids Farewell to Austin
Our interview with the filmmaker and programmer

Feb. 1, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Transpecos, Greg Kwedar, Gabriel Luna, Clifton Collins Jr., Johnny Simmons, Oscar Avila, David Acord, Alma Martinez

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle