A Night in Old Mexico: SXSW Review

Phase 4 Films
A welcome chance to watch Duvall in another leading role, but little more than that.

Robert Duvall plays a failed rancher having one last adventure across the border.

AUSTIN — Robert Duvall and Bill Witliff return to the Southwest in Emilio Aragon's A Night in Old Mexico, where the Lonesome Dove screenwriter and its irascible star follow an aging rancher on an ill-advised trip South of the Border. Formulaic and often hard to swallow, the picture offers little beyond the familiar pleasures of Duvall's old-coot mode; it has moderate theatrical appeal, but will stand as a blip in its star's filmography compared to Dove and his other cowpoke outings.

STORY: Take Me to the River SXSW Review

Duvall plays Red Bovie, an old-school Texan losing the property his family has owned for generations. He's contemplating suicide when a stranger appears: Gally (Jeremy Irvine), a city boy wearing awkward faux-Western wear he bought for this occasion, introduces himself as the son of Red's only, and long-estranged, child. Unwilling to go home once the old man says, essentially, "Now you've met me — adios," Gally winds up playing babysitter for him on one last bordertown paint-the-town-red night, an evening that could well be Red's last.

While some Americans cross the border to acquire cheap prescription drugs and tequila hangovers, Red finds more exotic souvenirs: a satchel stuffed with U.S. dollars (courtesy of some bad-news hitchhikers) and a gorgeous new friend, Patty Wafers (Angie Cepeda), a would-be nightclub singer who strips to pay the rent. Not one to hide his enthusiasm under a bushel, Red soon attracts the attention of locals who envy the girl and have claims on the dough; Joaquin Cosio plays a standard-issue thug who stalks the trio as they cavort through town.

Irvine, who scored high-profile roles in War Horse and Great Expectations, looks the part of the naively overeager grandson but has a hard time winning us over in scenes where Gully bites off more action than he can handle. Cepeda is charming, but Witliff makes her too easy a target for Red's rather obscure charms. The screenwriter's most successful films (Legends of the Fall, The Perfect Storm, and Dove) have been adaptations of other successful writers' work, and here he has some difficulty inventing characters who are more than a collection of cliches. Aragon steers the action capably, but climactic showdowns lack much sense of danger — beyond the question of whether Red will happily keel over from all the excitement, or ride off into a sunset so rosy few viewers will be able to believe it.

Production Companies: Flywheel & Shyster, Globomedia Cine, Maxmedia, Quentin Quayle Pictures, Telefonica Studios

Cast: Robert Duvall, Jeremy Irvine, Angie Cepeda, Luis Tosar, Joaquin Cosio, Javier Gutierrez, Jim Parrack, James Landry Hébert, Michael Ray Escamilla, Abraham Benrubi

Director-Music: Emilio Aragon

Screenwriter: William D. Wittliff

Producers: Sunmin Park, J.Ethan Park, Emilio Aragon, William D. Wittliff, Robert Carliner, Robert Duvall, Daniel Ecija, Cesar Vargas Sanz

Executive producers: Maria P. Aragon, Santiago De La Rica, Itziar Puga, Christopher Bates, Axel Kuschevatzky, Gabriel Arias-Salgado

Director of photography: David Omedes

Production designer: Barbara Haberecht

Costume designer: Van Broughton Ramsey

Editors: Jose Salcedo, Andrew Mondshein

No rating, 103 minutes