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A troubled man runs away to Mexico and is recruited to join a paramilitary group of teens fighting the drug cartels. He proves himself to the group, but questions their motive.

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Mercury Plains movie full length review - Meditative study of masculinity and power, not your typical action thriller

Those looking for an action-packed, shoot-'em-up thriller might be disappointed, but that doesn't mean there aren't some worthy ideas and narrative threads at work here.

This is a slowly paced film, at times almost meditative, but one that rewards a patient viewer. Don't watch it for shootouts and chase scenes, but rather for a thoughtful treatise on men and boys, fathers and sons, the razor thin line between love and war, and the hollow attraction of lawlessness and moral anarchy -- all shot gorgeously in the dreamlike expanses of the Mexican desert.

The plot is fairly bare bones: a young 20something down on his luck, Mitch (Scott Eastwood), crosses the border from Texas to Mexico out of nothing more than boredom, and winds up getting entangled in a group of lost boys who've been taken in by a Fagin-esque leader, "The Captain," a middle-aged vet who uses his ragtag band to carry out vigilante hits on various drug runners and cartel branches. At first, Mitch is enticed by The Captain's promise of money and claim that something special lies inside of Mitch -- something no one else can see. To the completely lost man-child without a father figure, this serves as motivation to keep Mitch serving as The Captain's "top soldier," even as the group quickly devolves into pure criminal violence and bloody greed. By the end, Mitch is forced to find his own ethical code, something to dictate his sense of self-preservation vs. self-worth.

There is a lot at play here, talk of soldiers and kings and the ownership of territory, that all resonate deeply within our current climate of urban gang warfare and political fear-mongering and appetite for vigilante justice. Eastwood doesn't yet have the gruff gravitas and charisma of his famous father, but he shoulders the movie well, displaying a screen presence that belies his inexperience. The original score is haunting and beautiful, and the cinematography captures desolate landscapes and car chases with equal elegance. If you give yourself time to breathe with this film and meander along at its contemplative tempo, I think you'll appreciate its aim to be something more than just another shoot-out in the desert.