Apache Junction (USA/Thailand, 2021)

A woman enters a danger zone and gets help from an unlikely hero in this Western from writer-director Justin Lee.

Annabelle Angel is a journalist in 1881 Arizona who is tasked with doing a story on an area known as Apache Junction. This is a place where law doesn’t exist. Along the way, she is warned by local Captain Hensley about the area. Criminals who have escaped consider the place their safe haven. Upon her arrival, she heads to a local saloon run by Al Longfellow. There, she witnesses a fight between a local goon and an outlaw named Jericho Ford, who has a reputation.

When Annabelle is cornered by three boys who work for Captain Hensley, Jericho arrives and warns the trio to let her go. When they don’t comply, Jericho is forced to shoot. When one of the three is revealed to be Captain Hensley’s son, the captain decides to put a bounty out on Ford. However, as Ford protects Annabelle and himself, a mysterious stranger comes to Hensley. Someone from Ford’s past and he is thirsty for revenge against the outlaw. Who will come out on when these two once again cross paths?

Writer-director Justin Lee is quite the indie filmmaker. Showcasing his versatility since jump starting his career, his latest film takes us to a Western where the titular area is a lawless outpost where criminals hide out and consider it a safe haven. The titular area in Arizona today may be a city, but in 1881, it seems to be located on an unpaved stagecoach trail. This may seem like a run-by-the-numbers Western, but it actually is not as the twist involves the central character being a journalist looking to do a story on the titular area.

Scout Taylor Compton gives a great performance as Annabelle, the journalist who decides to do a story on the titular outpost. She does tend to get into one situation after another, but it is not completely her fault. She just gets in the wrong place and wrong time. However, she does get in the right place when she meets our protagonist, the outlaw Jericho Ford. And this character is played by Stuart Townsend, who compared to earlier performances like Queen of the Damned and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, looks virtually unrecognizable. Then again, it has been nearly two decades since those films and Townsend does a great job in the co-lead role of the protector.

Country music superstar Trace Adkins is the mastermind antagonist in the form of Captain Hensley, the self-proclaimed leader of the Apache Junction. While criminals either fight or settle their scores by gunfight duels, Hensley has this firm belief that he runs the area. However, it is clear that Ford did not get the memo. This leads to a series of scenes where Annabelle and Ford find themselves against the world with support from Thomas Jane’s saloon owner Al and Danielle Gross’ Mary. Ed Morrone comes in at the third act start as an old rival of Ford’s dying for revenge when Hensley looks for anyone willing to get rid of Ford.

Apache Junction is a not a typical Western but offers something new in a change for the central character, but Scout Taylor Compton, a nearly unrecognizable Stuart Townsend, and a very excellent performance by Trace Adkins make this one for the Western fans to check out.

WFG RATING: B

Lionsgate and Saban Films presents a Hillin Entertainment production in association with Benetone Films and Origo Financial Services. Director: Justin Lee. Producers: Justin Lee and Daemon Hillin. Writer: Justin Lee. Cinematography: Logan Fulton. Editing: Justin Lee.

Cast: Scout Taylor Compton, Stuart Townsend, Thomas Jane, Trace Adkins, Victoria Pratt, Danielle Gross, Ed Morrone.

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