The "Road to Juárez" spans not only some 2,000 miles but 20 years, as childhood pals Jacob (Walter Perez) and Robbie (Charley Koontz) transform from juvenile delinquents into hustling tinhorns.
Robbie's scam-artist uncle, Doug (William Forsythe), recruits the pair to head from Riverside to Morelos, Mexico, to recover a stash of lucrative contraband.
Writer-director David Ponce de Leon cites real-life animal-pelt smugglers as inspiration, but this first feature of his owes far more to Quentin Tarantino for its time-jumping, faux philosophizing and mischievous posturing. Whereas Tarantino has an ear for snappy dialogue, an eye for violence and a taste for pastiche, Ponce de Leon does not.
"Road to Juárez" suffers from a wayward narrative. The nicely elliptical arc lowers the stakes considerably by giving away the ending in the opening scene. With a succession of tangential flashbacks, the film gradually disengages viewers from the plot.
There's nothing particularly charismatic about its protagonist, whose voice-over narration quickly gets lost in a confusing timeline and a sea of flashbacks seen from other characters' perspectives. Any dramatic conflict that does arise has a budget telenovela feel.
"Road to Juárez."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk Stadium 19; Regal Edwards South Gate Stadium 20.