The IMDB entry for Hostile Territory almost scared me off before I started watching it. After enduring yesterday’s film Eye for Eye I was already leery about watching another Western, let alone one that supposedly ran for two and a half hours. But a quick bit of research revealed it runs a more normal hour and a half and the plot sounded like it had potential so here we are.
Union soldier Jack Calgrove (Brian Presley, Borderland, Streets of Blood) is reported killed in action during the Civil War. Shortly after, his wife dies of tuberculosis while he was gone and he had been reported as killed in action. As a result, his children Lizzy (Emma Presley), Lilly (Ruby Presley), and Charlie (Jackson Presley) are placed on an orphan train, (Orphan Train was actually the film’s original title) to be placed with their older brother Phil (Cooper North) a soldier stationed in Missouri.
But Jack isn’t dead, he’s been rotting in a Confederate POW camp. Returning home along with fellow POW Desmond Richards (Craig Tate, Lycan, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage) he finds out what has happened. Fearing retribution against Northerners, he and Desmond set out to catch up with the train.
The first half-hour of Hostile Territory is interesting if a bit slow, and a long scene where Phillip talks about his family is an obvious, and annoying information dump. It is however nice to see a Western centered around a former Union officer rather than the more typical returning Confederate soldier. In fact, the Confederates we see in Hostile Territory are portrayed as a particularly scummy bunch. It’s a run-in with a group of them attempting to rape former slave Alice (Natalie Whittle, Orbital Redux, Wal-Bob’s) that sets the second act into motion.
As Jack, Desmond, and Alice are heading to Missouri, Phillip, his sibling plus several unclaimed orphans, and Ingrid (Brianna Elias, Age Out), the requisite saloon girl with a heart of gold are heading to his new posting in Montana. Unfortunately, writer/director/star Brian Presley has trouble keeping Hostile Territory’s elements tied together and it feels like we’re watching two separate movies at times.
Eventually, the three of them along with a detachment of Native American sharpshooters head West to catch up with the others who are facing trouble from some tribes who are justifiably upset at the newcomers encroaching on their land.
Despite some early press releases referring to it as an “action Western”, Hostile Territory is very much a drama. At its core it’s about race, prejudice, and what divides us, as well as what we have in common and can unite us. Presley’s script verges on heavy-handed at times but thankfully manages to avoid becoming overly preachy and lets the story do most of the talking rather than having characters sermonize.
The action scenes we do get are decently staged but small scale and nothing special as such things go. Given Hostile Territory’s focus on drama over thrills, that’s to be expected even if the film’s artwork and title give a different impression. Along the way, there are some beautiful shots of the Montana wilderness, and sharp-eyed viewers may recognize veteran actor Lew Temple whose been in everything from The Devil’s Rejects, The Walking Dead, to Between the Darkness and The Endless in a small role.
Despite some issues with pacing and a couple of plot elements that feel cliched and a bit too coincidental, Hostile Territory is a solid drama that should keep viewers entertained. Those with a tendency to scream “WOKE!” at everything involving race may be an exception, however.
Saban Films has given Hostile Territory a limited theatrical release as well as making it available on VOD and Digital platforms. Blu-ray and DVD release is scheduled for June 14th. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information, and FilmTagger for some similar films in case you want to make it a movie night.