The Reel Review


A typical, monotonous day at a desolate border checkpoint in the Chihuahuan Desert near Mexico turns into a harrowing nightmare for three U.S. border patrol agents, after a deadly incident reveals a dark secret that could cost them all their lives.

Johnny Simmons, Gabriel Luna and Clifton Collins Jr. in Transpecos.

In his screenplay co-written with Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar keeps the action taut and the story moving at a brisk pace in his directorial debut. It is a lean, low budget thriller. Its realism, focus on character development and an intense first half helps offset some logic-defying story directions in the second half that strain the bounds of plausibility.

The border checkpoint in Transpecos.

Gabriel Luna (Terminator: Dark Fate) delivers a compelling, nuanced performance as the conscientious agent caught in the crosshairs of several moral dilemmas, with equally strong performances from Johnny Simmons (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) as the respective laid back rookie and jaded veteran fellow agents. The harsh beauty of the terrain and its itinerant inhabitants – drug mules, coyotes leading immigrants across the border and a Mayan healer – give the story a flourish of added drama.


Transpecos was a Grand Jury Award Winner at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival.

Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar on the red carpet in September 2016 at the Deauville US Film Festival in Deauville, France.

Transpecos director Greg Kwedar again teams up with writing partner Clint Bentley, who directs the 2021 film Jockey, starring Clifton Collins Jr. as an aging jockey trying to win one last championship when a rookie rider arrives claiming to be his son.

• Although set in south Texas near the Mexican border, Transpecos was filmed in 16 days in Deming, New Mexico.


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