February 26, 2024
by Carla Hay
Directed by Jesse Edwards
Some language in Spanish with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. state, the Western action film “The Stolen Valley” features a cast of white, Latin and Native American cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A young mechanic travels to visit the wealthy father she never knew to ask for money for her mother’s medical expenses, and along the way she gets mixed up in the cowgirl on the run from criminals and out some family secrets.
Culture Audience: “The Stolen Valley” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in Western movies and don’t care if the movies are poorly made and have bad acting.
“The Stolen Valley” wants to make a noble statement about the unfair treatment of Native Americans, but this shoddily made Western action film does it in all the wrong ways. The mind-numbingly stupid plot twists make it even worse. It’s the type of movie that might get unintentional laughs at all the ridiculous scenarios that “The Stolen Valley” is trying to pass off as realistic.
Written and directed by Jesse Edwards, “The Stolen Valley” (formerly titled Alta Valley) comes across as something that looks like a teenager’s fantasy of making a “shoot ’em up” film with two attractive women as the lead characters. There’s a lot of not-so-subtle preaching in the last half of the film about Native Americans being exploited by white people. But it just reeks of a superficial understanding of these problems, in order to make a “politically correct” Western.
“The Stolen Valley” (which takes place in an unnamed U.S. Western state and was actually filmed in Utah) begins by showing named Adamina (played by Paula Miranda) moving away from her home and leaving a note behind for her mother. It’s revealed later in the film that her home was a vast property called Alta Valley that is rich with oil.
Adamina’s mother is of Mexican and Navajo heritage, which is a major part of the movie’s plot. At the time that Adamina left home, she was pregnant by her white married lover Carl (played by Micah Fitzgerald), who did not know at the time that she was pregnant. Carl and his wife had two children: a son and a daughter. Adamina is pregnant with a daughter.
“The Stolen Valley” then fast-forwards 20 years later. Adamina’s daughter Lupe (played by Briza Covarrubias) is now a friendly mechanic who lives with Adamina in a fictional city called Cedar City. Adamina owns a food truck, where Lupe works part-time. Lupe and Adamina are both struggling financially, but they saving enough money with the dream that they can someday buy their own home.
Also living in Cedar City are Adamina’s brother (played by Oscar Balderrama), who is only called Tio (which is Spanish for “uncle”); the brother’s wife (played by Doralina Chavez), who also doesn’t have a first name in the movie; and their two pre-teen children: son Marco (played by Striker Henry) and daughter Juanita (played by Shady Henry). They are a close-knight and loving clan, but the family some big secrets that have to do with Adamina’s past.
The family gets devastating news after Adamina collapses one day and falls into a coma in a hospital: Adamina has a brain tumor and cancer. A doctor says that Adamina can get an experimental treatment that is not covered by health insurance. The treatment costs $50,000, which the family can’t afford.
Lupe’s uncle then tells Lupe a family secret: Adamina lied to Lupe when she told Lupe that Lupe’s father died in a fire. Adamina also lied to Lupe about the identity of Lupe’s father, by showing Lupe a photo of Adamina’s deceased father instead.
Lupe’s father Carl is really alive and well. And he is the wealthy owner of Alta Valley, which he will soon sell to a company called Western Oil. This sale will make Carl even richer. Lupe is then told by her uncle that the only way she can get the $50,000 in time to save Adamina is to ask Carl for the money.
It’s later revealed that Carl is now a widower, who lives with his young adult son James (played by Noah Collins) at Alta Valley. Also living on the property is Adamina’s estranged mother Lizette (played by Paulette Lamori), who has not seen or spoken to Adamina since the day that Adamina left Alta Valley. One of Carl’s other employees is named Aaron (played by Harold Skow), who is very close to Lizette and is about the same age as Lizette.
At the beginning of her road trip to Alta Valley, Lupe stops in a pawn shop, where she tries to sell or trade some of her Navajo jewelry. At the pawn shop, she witnesses a shootout that started in a back room. The dispute is between a rodeo cowgirl named Maddy Monroe (played by Allee Sutton Hethcoat) and a crime lord named Antonio (played by Ricardo Herranz), because Maddy owes Antonio at least $10,000. By sheer coincidence, Maddy was a customer of Adamina’s food truck when it was at the most recent rodeo where Maddy competed.
The next thing that Lupe knows, she and Maddy are driving away in Maddy’s truck to get away from the Antonio’s thugs, whose chief henchman is a pouting hoodlum named Lito (played by Danny Arroyo), who is very inept at things he is ordered to do. The rest of the “The Stolen Valley” is just a series of terribly staged chase scenes and shootouts before, during and after Lupe convinces Maddy to go to Alta Vista with her. During all of this violence, Maddy never looks like a gritty action hero but instead looks like she’s about to go on a fashion modeling assignment. Lupe ends up finding out more secrets about her family that will make viewers roll their eyes at how moronic these plot twists are.
“The Stolen Valley” often looks like a tacky sitcom-ish soap opera with terrible dialogue and awful acting. For example, there’s a scene where Maddy and Lupe try to “hide” from Antonio’s goons by spontaneously pretending they’re part of a dance group called Las Señoritas and joining them on stage. It looks as phony and ludicrous as it sounds. The only thing that realistically gets “stolen” by watching “Stolen Valley” is the valuable time of anyone who has the misfortune of watching this misguided dreck.
Blue Fox Entertainment released “The Stolen Valley” in select U.S. cinemas on February 23, 2024.