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The best performances are turned in by Ermey's Border Patrol officer and
Elizabeth Pena's waitress, Connie. Cumulatively they have about ten minutes
of screen time. This factoid can tell you a lot.
The three leads do not radiate charisma. Luke is barely competent as an actor and he looks ordinary, but not in the appealing sense of the word. Nick, his wife, is an admittedly toothsome young blonde with a wide forehead and huge innocent blue eyes and a nice figure. A little gratuitous nudity might have helped. Dean, the chief villain, has a bit of Texas-type charm, teaching Nickie how to do the two-step, given to engaging chuckles, playing it relatively straight. He becomes violent only when provoked, or when, from his primitive point of view, some form of payback is called for.
The script is the best part of the movie. Some of the lines are kind of interesting. Luke is stranded with Nickie and their baby in a small border town and, desperately broke, is invited to join Dean and his somewhat homoerotic partner in their sideline, which is smuggling mestizos into the states to work on farms. When Luke points out that Dean owns a garage (what a dump) and doesn't really need the money, and asks why he's doing it, Luke grins and replies, "Because I can." When Luke's cooperative impulses fail him at one point, Dean's sadistic buddy turns to him and says menacingly, "Luke, you better get your mind right." Dean chuckles but nobody explains the joke.
It's mainly at the end that the script gets all loopy. The three gringos, Dean, the sidekick, and Luke are at the border prepared to meet the Mexican contingent. (Luke only at gunpoint.) They are interrupted by Ermey and his unit, who have been suspicious of Dean and his buddy all along. There is one of those tedious slow-motion shoot-outs, after which Dean and his fellow thug decide that Luke has turned them in to the law, and they decide to take revenge by visiting Nickie in her shabby motel room. It's not clear what they intend except that, whatever it turns out to be, it won't be to her benefit.
Pursued at high speed by both Ermey and by Luke, the two no-goodniks race to the motel, and Dean very sensibly starts demanding of Nickie's infant, "Where the Goddam remote control for the TV? It's ALREADY on channel three?" He throws the TV through the room's plate glass window, an act I think we can all understand and whose motives we can sympathize with. Nickie grabs Dean's gun and her baby and exits the room. Thug number two fires at her (and misses) and she fires back (hitting him both times). She then runs away from the motel, rather than to the office, and -- are you following this? -- she runs into the desert and Dean, cackling as only a movie lunatic can do, follows her, and Ermy follows him and Luke follows Ermy and -- well, never mind.
Aside from the other irritations, there is the photography. There is more use of color filters in this movie than in any movie since 1915. Scenes at night are ultra-violet. Daytime shots of the motel are siena. The interior of the crummy motel is chartreuse. Open day shots in the desert are a sulfurous yellow. I'll quit there because I can't remember any other of the tints in my box of Crayolos except "vermilion" and I didn't recognize any vermilion scenes. Oh, there's "burnt umber" too, but that doesn't fit either. It's clear that the cinematographer had a much better Crayola memory than I do. I wish they wouldn't do that, use color filters. Not as a matter of principle, because I thought their use was perfectly apt in a movie like "Traffic," where they help us distinguish Mexico from the United States. Here, the technique is just pointless.
This could be worse. As I say, until the end, the story is rather engaging and is sprinkled with neat lines. But more could have been done if more talent and thought had been involved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS - CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION I was completely stopped cold in my suspension of disbelief when Luke failed to tell Nickie that he was only making one last run because Dean had him at gunpoint. He goes through the entire scene where she's packing to leave him (because he broke his promise not to drive for Dean anymore) and he should have told her the two guys had guns on him. If he's desperate to keep her from leaving and he knows she thinks he's breaking his promise, then the OBVIOUS thing for him to have said was that he was being forced to at gunpoint. It was the elephant in the room. When he actually left the motel room without telling her this overwhelmingly obvious and important piece of information I lost interest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
-May contain spoiler-
I had one massive problem with this movie....
This is as follows..
He was paid $500 for the first people smuggle he did, then he told his wife he had to do the third run because he hadn't been paid yet.... Dude.. take that $500 and get out... And he didn't tell his wife they were pointing a gun at him telling him he had to do it, she wouldn't have thought of leaving then...
Quite entertaining but very predictable.
All in all not a bad mid day movie.
In this sturdy "stranded couple" film, everyone is suspected of smuggling immigrants across the Mexican border. Practically everyone. Early in the film, a polite couple stops for fuel at a small Texas town, en-route to a job offer in California. The shady gas-station owner/operator, Dean, seizes an opportunity to take the couple's last few hundred dollars. It being that this is a border-town, and the couple are out of money, you might guess where the film goes from this point. Well, sort of. While not advertised as a period piece, the film seems to have a certain 70's mood. Not to complain, as it adds a certain flavor and zest, per se. I'm not familiar at all with Bill Sage as Dean, but he did his part, as did the rest of the cast. Eric Mabius apparently filmed this one concurrently with "The Crow: Salvation" and stars as Luke. His wife in the film, Marley Shelton, is in fine form as an actress (especially in a waitress uniform). There are a few head-scratching scenes, such as a scene where Web can't make up his mind whether he wants to use a .38 caliber or an automatic pistol, at a crucial point. But for the most part, the film is serious (almost too serious, as Dean is overtly slimy as the villain, to the point where he has no respect for infants whatsoever). As I mentioned, the performances are a strength, including R. Lee Ermey (star of Full Metal Jacket) as the long arm of the border-law. All in all, a worthwhile film, deserving of repeat views.
There are some things I like about this film. The baby of the young
couple gives the best performance. On a side note, Elizabeth Pena (La
Bamba) and R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket) come in second. When you
watch them you can tell that they are fighting the mediocre dialogue
written for their characters but hey they earning their money. Two, the
look of the film is GREAT. Props to the cinematographer. Three, the
best part of this film starts after the shootout at the end of the
film. It is a scene with Elias (Ermey), Nikki, Luke and Tyler (the
baby). This scene is the best of the whole movie but you will have to
watch the whole film to appreciate each characters circumstances in the
The story is pretty good with a few plot holes here and there. Nikki and Luke come from Detroit hoping to find a new life in California but they find themselves in trouble in a small texan border town. The direction is sub standard. I have never seen a night scene have intercuts of sunset to a night shot of the moon with clouds. It just looks off. Also the car crash scene was too much for me to handle and swallow. It was OK but it lowered my expectations a lot and that crash happened within the first ten minutes of the film. The right side of my brain told my left side, "I don't think this film is going to get any better." Also the slow motion in this film is too, I don't know, not needed.
If there is one thing that is wrong with this film it was the casting. It had nothing to do with the acting but the "LOOK" and "BELIVABILITY" of each character was way off. First, Nikki and Luke do not look like they are from Detroit, if they are than they are from the suburbs. The story alludes to Nikki and Luke coming from the city but I am probably wrong. Either way Nikki looks like she is from Longbeach while Luke looks like he is from Cypress, California. The only thing that works with these two is there innocence but that wouldn't be enough to have me cast them. The character of Dean was off as well but he does have merit. I can see the director liking him cause he is better looking than Luke and it would solve the motivation problem for Nikki to do the two step with him at the diner. Regardless he has california written all over him. His character made me believe more in Owen Wilson's country boy character in Michael Bay's "Armageddon". Overall he just doesn't work but I don't blame him, the writing of character is conflicted. Elias is played by Ermey and he does work as a border patrol officer. Elizabeth Pena plays Connie who owns the local diner in town. First of all, Pena looks beautiful, but her character should be older. There are lines in the screenplay that give a clue to Connie's age which doesn't match Pena's youthful self. The main thing that caught my attention was Pena's hairdo. The character of Connie needed to be older like Rita Moreno (HBO's OZ) or Rosanna De Soto (La Bamba). She wasn't believable but in the movie industry nothing really has to be real I guess. What does work is the film's town folk and Dean's sidekick. The town itself works as well.
Overall the only reason to see this movie is to see it for a production quality lesson for homework. Here's the assignment. Rent "Borderwarz", then rent "On The Borderline" and last but not least rent "Breakdown" with Kurt Russell. The assignment, write a five page paper discussing the quality of each production and how the films budgets reflected the choices made by the filmmakers of each films. Also comment on restrictions that each film probably had in correlation with funding. I want it on my desk by Friday, no later than 6pm.
i was surprised... not as bad as i thought it was going to be... marley shelton is THE most under rated young actress in film today... but maybe i'm prejudice...my girlfriend went to school with her... not a bad rent...
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