Coyotaje (2018)

Rating: D

Dir: Nathan Hill
Star: Larry Yazzie, Michael C. Alvarez, Shane Dean, Jessica Eenhuis

This is less a film than a battle between the characters, attempting to see who can be the most outrageous cliche, as they stumble around, and over, the desert border between Mexico and southern Arizona. Leading the charge is Ed Montenez (Yazzie), a native American agent for the Border Patrol. He had previously been a member of the Shadow Wolves, a group which uses their tracking skills to assist federal authorities (which has been the subject of another movie, albeit to no better effect). Ed left under murky circumstances, and now basically wanders the desert by himself, doing what he wants without colleagues or coordination, because that’s totally how ICE works.

He is, however, being hassled by Special Agent Temple (Eenhuis), because she has AN AGENDA of her own – and, yeah, it’s about that subtle. Meanwhile, out in the desert, Lazaro (Alvarez) is trying to smuggle a moving truck full of illegal immigrants across the desert, accompanied by his unhinged, heavily tattooed partner, who wears a bandana and calls everybody “ese”. They are opposed by unhinged vigilante, Travis (Dean). He describes the illegal immigrants as – and I paused the movie to write this down – “actually criminals that cross over here by the millions and cast votes for liberals.” Travis is accompanied by his slightly less-deranged pal, who spent time in the army. The friend has far more tolerance for Travis’s idiocy than any viewer, even one who believes in the importance of border security.

Oh, yeah: and there’s a baby in a backpack, because there might as well be one. It plays like a kaiju movie for stereotypes, with an almost complete lack of nuance, although sadly, not enough destruction. Never mind Tokyo, I’d have settled for Tucson. The groups involved spend almost the entire movie wandering around the desert, bumping into each other with such frequency, the Mexican border in Arizona feels about the size of our back-garden, rather than over 370 miles long. Ah, but Ed is one of these Injun trackers, as we know from the number of shots of him stroking a frond of a bush, while staring at it intently. In lieu of personality, he’s all braids and turquoise jewellery, in case the “native American” part was in any way unclear.

The structure makes things needlessly difficult to follow, e.g. there’s a massacre, whose cause is only depicted later, though this reveal adds no particular impact. The rest of the writing is lazy as hell. Rather than Ed having to work to discover Lazaro’s plans, somebody literally bicycles up to the agent, tells him, and bicycles off, never to be seen again. Who knew law enforcement was so easy? Of course, in this department, the movie is completely hamstrung by its $30,000 budget, allowing for nothing remotely approaching scale. The Mexican cartels, for example, are represented by two guys, swearing at each other in Spanish over their walkie talkies. The only convincing element is the saguaros, which suggest actual Arizona locations. Otherwise, nothing about this rings true.