My Stretch of Texas Ground is about a radical Islamic terrorist named Abdul Latif Hassan (Junes Zahdi), who infiltrates a small Texas town to assassinate a visiting war-mongering U.S. Senator. The term “radical Islamic terrorist” is one of those dumb buzzwords that Conservatives created during the Obama administration to dog-whistle their racist base but quickly forgot once Trump was admitted into office and started bending over with his pants down for Saudi Arabia cash.
The term is used here to chuff up the premise for prospective viewers, and certainly seeing such an abusive term piques interest: If Chuck Norris were making movies today, he’d certainly go to that well as his excuse for saving America via exploitative violence. It’s the nature of most action flicks of this nature.
Or seems to be. Ground ultimately wants to be about the horrors of war that drive men on both sides to seek revenge.
Ground is about as political as an episode of 24 — outdated by 2020 standards but pretty pedestrian in the realm of “defend America” entertainment. 24 always walked the line between tasteless and thoughtful, often teetering toward the former while desperately aiming for the latter. The problem is that Ground feels like an entire season of 24 stuffed into a 90-minute running time, which means the vast majority of it constitutes wheel-spinning drama about Joe (Jeff Weber), an all-American lawman dealing with family drama and an uninteresting political assassination plot. Hassan, the assassin sent to kill a pro-war Citizen, is arguably justified due to his upbringing in the middle of America’s senseless Forever War, but it’s not much action for an action movie.
Depictions of “terrorists” using the border to cross into the United States is FOX News fodder but has been more shamelessly depicted in other, bigger, more offensive movies already. In this case, Hassan is kind to the immigrants with whom he travels, but still … if this is meant to subvert the trope, it fails to do so.
Still, there’s always charm to a movie with a budget so small that office meetings are clearly shot in a room with green-screen backdrops. Nothing feels as low-rent as the purposefully ludicrous Decker comedy show, but sometimes it comes close to self-parody. Nothing is particularly polished, meaning characters frequently look flat against their backdrops. The final act is mostly set at night, a challenge for any production but particularly for such a low-budget outing.
Plenty of movies depict emotional stories of violent men meeting their nemesis and realizing they aren’t so different, you and I. Unfortunately Ground just doesn’t have much thrill for the thriller elements or compelling character for the character drama.