Hostile Territory, the latest offering from actor, director, and writer Brian Presley, has all the right dads-for-kids ingredients.

Set in Missouri in the mid-1860s, the 2022 film is an award-worthy western with a crisp contemporary edge.

The well-thought-out script follows battle-hardened Union army Captain Jack Calgrove, who, at war’s end, finds his kids gone and his wife dead.

As he was presumed KIA, Calgrove’s children were dispatched by the US Army via the Orphan Train Movement, and told to meet up with their older brother, also a soldier, stationed further north.

Helping Calgrove is fellow POW Desmond Richards (Craig Tate), and Shantu (Lyndell Chee), along with Anishnaabe native American sharpshooters from Company K.

Wild Ride

So as not to give away any spoilers, Hostile Territory is, in sum, a story about a dad who reaches for his kids across hard terrain, while he fights off bitter Confederate renegades, and defends his ragtag ensemble against an angry tribe of displaced Apache.


Written, directed, and starred in by Presley, Hostile Territory is a notch in the belt of the husband and father of two, whose own story of success, failure, road to sobriety, and redemption is one for the retelling.

In an interview with CBN, Presley described his battle with disappointment, substance abuse and depression.

The actor turned up in Hollywood from Oklahoma with big dreams. He started out okay, only to find himself in financial hell after contracts were broken.

Things got worse for Presley before that got better. He told CBN that after making it as an actor, his dream gig of making films with faith-based realism came crashing down.

Pit of Despair

Now married and with kids, Presley said he started to self-medicate, using alcohol to distance himself from the stress of Hollywood’s ‘self-centred world — where you’re only as good as your last job.’

His drinking continued until his wife, Erin (also an accomplished actress), dragged him back to church.

Erin told CBN, “I would drag him to church on Sunday mornings,” Erin said, “when I knew he was fully hung over, but that’s what I knew he needed the most.”

Presley said, his drinking continued to get worse, even with the birth of his second child,

“I would tell myself, I want to stop, I’m gonna stop, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I was mad with God. This path I was supposed to go down had completely changed.”

Faith and Family

Facing serious health problems related to his liver and kidneys, Presley recounted how it took the hospitalisation of his daughter and his wife’s continuous support for him to “turn around.”

Presley told CBN he began to fight his way back to life and family. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and went back to the Bible, stating,

“God can resurrect anything and no matter what you are facing in life, no matter what your struggles are, God can bring you out of that. The only way I got back to the surface was with Jesus pulling the rope.”

True Story

Few films do what Hostile Territory does in the way of blending education and entertainment. A difficult thing to achieve, in a film industry quick to place ideological indoctrination over and above entertainment.

Inspired by a true story, the non-fictional context may explain why it landed in Apple’s top 25 Action and Adventure list a day after the film’s April release, and is still finding online streaming traction 5 months later.

Historically, the OTM was a relocation project run by the Children’s Aid Society.’ Founded by Rev. Charles Brace, CAS moved approximately 200,000 parentless children from New York to the frontier towns for adoption between 1854-1929.

Presley’s take is fresh. The film is lifted by John Koutselinis‘ original score, and the gravitas of its cast helps move the film forward at a good pace.

The characters are believable, and each cast member delivers the film’s carefully placed humour without compromising the film’s dramatic effect.

What’s more, both of Presley’s children star in the film with him.

Well-Crafted Tale

By presenting a survival story with a variety of characters from different backgrounds, Presley handled the historical context, which is the backbone of this film, without pandering to the anti-Western thinking dominating Hollywood.

Although the film was criticised on Amazon-owned IMBD for a slight historical gaffe, reviews often carried a mixture of warmth and disinterest.

In one of the few actual written reviews online, Air Force vet-turned-entertainment journalist Derrick Dunn gave the film a C, stating,

‘The film does not try to craft a false woke narrative. Instead, Presley constructs a film that focuses on the division within human nature as we bleed red. While the film does not truly break any ground, I will recommend it as a one-time watch.’

Excluding Dunn’s review, the pathetic response from movie buffs shows that Presley’s work roughed up the hostile Hollywoke norm.

In so doing, Presley has helped pioneer an unapologetic, new standard for faith, freedom, and family films that set out to reclaim the simple and the sacred.

This film does not disappoint. Grab your teens, pass around the popcorn, and settle in for the ride.

Hostile Territory is a legit first-class quality dads-for-kids action adventure, if ever there was one.

Five stars.

(Editor’s Note: The movie has an R rating in America for its violence, which is equivalent to a MA+ rating in Australia. The Wild West was a pretty violent place.)

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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