Borderline (1980) Poster


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A dash over the border.
mylimbo2 November 2008
Charles Bronson has a long-listed filmography that has undeserved sleepers mixed among the favourites, but also there are quite a few standard vehicle efforts. 'Borderline' figures in that latter pile. Entertaining for the odd 97 minutes, but nothing really there to make it overly memorable. Maybe to see a steely Ed Harris make his first real dent in the major film industry, but other than that there's very little to it.

The subject at hand (illegal immigration of Mexicans crossing over the US border) is very topical and naturally integrated, as Charles Bronson plays the chief border patrol officer. However despite how strong the themes are, it's never truly harrowing and piercing enough in its context to lift it above its average layout. The human drama is too black and white (lacking an emotional punch), but also suffering was that it never gained any real sort of assured brunt when it came to the action. It can get rough, but the thrills are sparsely worked in. But this being the case it doesn't stop it from being effective, just it leaves a no real agreeable imprint.

During the nights Chief Border Patrol Officer Jeb and his overworked men take in many illegal aliens trying to cross over the border. One of his men pulls over a truck, but is shot for it. After the killing of a border patrol officer and a young Mexican boy too. The FBI is brought on to the case and believes it to have something to do with drug running. However Jeb along with the deceased boy's mother go about trying to figure out what really happened and he has his true suspicions.

What I liked was how director Jerrod Freedman gives the film quite an organic look, as the camera follows the action in a documentary-style. Freedman's direction is sturdily serviceable, never forced and lets it breeze by. Gil Mellé's rousing score is on the mark.

The cast do the best with what the script allows. Bronson alone gets through it with such genuine conviction. Harris' on-screen charisma evidently features with a well-comprised performance and Karmin Murcelo gives a wonderfully warm turn of heart-broke. There's an well-fitted supporting cast with Bruno Kerby, Michael Lerner, Wilford Brimley, Kenneth McMillan and Charles Cyphers.

Workable, if indistinguishable.
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Not bad for its time
mm-3931 May 2002
I remember when I was in grade 8, people where starting to buy VCRs, and owning one was a big deal. Dad rented one, and we picked out movies. Borderline was one of them, I thought it was pretty cool. Watching this film 19 years later I found it predicable, and a little lame. No way his truck could keep up with a Trans Am on the highway, why did the guy, with the T A, go off road where the truck has the edge. My friend Gord mentioned this, and I thought yeah. Anyways, no surprises here, but watchable. 6/10
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Passable actioner with fairly serious themes.
Jonathon Dabell6 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Borderline is a reasonably serious and sincere Charles Bronson movie, made at a time when the stone-faced actor was most commonly found in sleazy and violent potboilers (e.g Death Wish II, Ten To Midnight, The Evil That Men Do, etc.) There is little about Borderline that is violent or sleazy; in fact, it is probably the tamest film he made at that period of his career. It takes its basis from the very real problem of illegal Mexican immigrants crossing the American border in search of a better life. When the film was made, the number of aliens crossing into the US without authority was incredibly high and was a real issue of concern for the Border Patrol officers, so in some ways this is quite a topical movie. However, it is made in a basic, workmanlike fashion by director Jerrold Freedman, and has neither the explosive action to satisfy the gung-ho crowd, nor the thematic weight and power to satisfy those looking for something more morally complex.

Jeb Maynard (Charles Bronson) is the chief at a Border Patrol station some 20 miles east of San Diego. Every day (and night) his small, overworked staff patrol an area of thousands of square miles looking for Mexican nationals who have illegally crossed the border in their sector. One of Jeb's closest buddies is Scoot (A. Wilford Brimley), an old, long-serving Border Patrolman. On a dark evening, Scoot is unfortunate enough to pull over a truck full of illegal aliens being smuggled into the US by ex-Vietnam vet Hotchkiss (Ed Harris). Hotchkiss works as part of a major smuggling operation which is making millions of dollars a year by helping paying immigrants across the border. Scoot is shot dead by Hotchkiss, who also fatally wounds one of his aliens - a young boy - at the same time. The FBI believe that Scoot and the kid were killed by drug smugglers, but Jeb is less convinced. Aided by Elena, the dead boy's mother (Karmin Murcelo), he attempts to get to the bottom of his best friend's brutal murder.

It's quite interesting to see Harris in his movie debut playing second fiddle to Bronson. Harris went on to become a greatly-respected star, and even here in this simple and under-written role you can see his charisma trying to break through.... which contrasts markedly with Bronson's inexpressive, silent-man-of-action approach. The story has the potential to be very powerful, but most opportunities are missed and the film plays out in a very ordinary and unremarkable manner. Everything comes across as earnest and simplistic, and this approach seems rather too pat for a movie with such a topical theme. Borderline is nothing special, but neither is it particularly terrible. There are a thousand better and a thousand worse movies out there.
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Great Bronson, again...
Andrew Eastenegger30 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
OK now what the hell is wrong with this great film, I've seen hell of a lot worse nowadays that make money too. This has a concept that is out there so i'm proud of everyone involved for bringing it to the screen. Bronson shines again with what he has to work off, i never really under-stud people slagging him off, rubbish actor.... No way, Charlie always proved he could act and he did action movies for big money, so why not, stick to what works. We all remember Charlie and miss him now we have actors that ain't worth watching. Its a little movie that deserves a nice DVD release, so why no one bother, cause they'd prefer to release rubbish instead.

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simple flick but so many popular seventies actors involved
trashgang13 June 2012
This is just a flick with a simple story but it's still watchable towards todays standards. It's all about the borderline between America and Mexico and the business that is going on to 'help' Mexicans cross the line.

For a flick of 1980 it is very low on brutality. It was a time that had a lot of blood, nudity and gore in it's flicks but this here just hasn't any of that. There's one killing that is well done, the shooting at the beginning but further there's nothing to see. But the thespians here to see is the main reason to watch it.

The main lead is done by Charles Bronson, you love or hate him but I love him even as he isn't an actor with great abilities he still delivers. It was made at a time that Bronson was more in rough flicks or revenge flicks starting with the Death Wish franchise (1974). But there's also Ed Harris (Hotchkiss) here to see in one of his first major roles. He got his first taste of critical acclaim, playing astronaut John Glenn in The Right Stuff (1983). Also Bruno Kirby (Jimmy Fante ) made it in blockbusters like Good Morning Vietnam (1987). There are more popular faces to see in smaller roles like Charles Cypher.

We have seen this story a few times in other flicks but as I said earlier, it still works and is in fact still actual.

Gore 0/5 Nudity 0/5 Effects 0/5 Story 3/5 Comedy 0/5
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Decent Bronson vehicle.
Scott LeBrun18 July 2015
"Borderline", admittedly, is fairly undistinguished in terms of presentation. It's passable as an action flick, and entertains reasonably well for 100 minutes. It purports to shed light on the problem of illegal immigration, which in 2015 is more of a hot button issue than ever before. Characters are mostly thinly drawn, but writer Steve Kline and writer / director Jerrold Freedman aren't completely insensitive to the plight of the good, honest, hard workers like Elena Morales (Karmin Murcelo) who feel they have no choice.

The movie does benefit from giving its star, Charles Bronson, a worthy adversary: a particularly ruthless and cold blooded smuggler named Hotchkiss (Ed Harris, in the role that "introduced" him), who sealed his fate when he killed Scooter Jackson (Wilford Brimley), one of the co-workers of the Bronson character, Jeb Maynard. Jeb and Scooter are among those on Border Patrol detail, and when Scooter gets murdered, Jeb takes it upon himself to solve the case. He doesn't trust the ignorant agents of the FBI, who think the whole case is about drugs. Jeb must also break in a new employee, Jimmy Fante (Bruno Kirby), an eager beaver rookie sent from NY.

What gives "Borderline" some stature today is its truly superior supporting cast. Bronson does what he usually does (which, of course, he is very cool at doing), but it's Harris and others that truly bring this to life. You can't go too wrong reading through this cast list: Bert Remsen, Michael Lerner, Kenneth McMillan, Norman Alden, John Ashton, Charles Cyphers, Virgil Frye, Luis Contreras, et al. Although the environment is very much male-dominated, Ms. Murcelo is appealing and touching as the illegal alien who reluctantly provides Jeb with the assistance that he needs.

This is worth noting for a striking music score by Gil Melle and cinematography by the consistently dependable Tak Fujimoto. It *is* enjoyable enough, even if it is formula driven and not too memorable.

Seven out of 10.
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Murder on the Border
Filmfandave18 May 2014
Don't expect to see Chuck murder men by request, shoot punks or grow watermelons. This time Bronson is Jeb Maynard, a tough and experienced chief border patrol officer investigating the cold-blooded murder of one of his men who is just two weeks away from retirement.

With the aid of a newly transferred young officer from New York, Maynard tracks down the ruthless killer who is seemingly as elusive as the masterminds behind the crime.

BORDERLINE, a lesser known and often forgotten Bronson's film (at least to me), plays like a pilot episode of a TV series. Not much tension is delivered and not much action either, but this crime drama keeps viewers, especially fans, interested. Unfortunately, the distinctively catchy music during the opening credits is underplayed, which renders some key scenes emotionally bland.

Compared with other Bronson's films - Cold Sweat, White Buffalo, Love and Bullets - which are rather disappointing, BORDERLINE quite delivers the goods. It's always a pleasure for Bronson's fans to see him take up a different role: here we see more of his acting and charisma while less of his machismo (Not saying that this side of Bronson's acting style is unwelcome) During his long acting career, Charles Bronson only had several memorable films which made him an iconic action star. BORDERLINE is certainly not one of them. For his fans, this minor entry is worth watching regardless.
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Thoroughly uninteresting.
gridoon23 September 2001
This was the third turkey in a row for Charles Bronson, after "The White Buffalo" and "Love and Bullets". It's so utterly, extraordinarily dull that you may not quite make to the end. There is little plot, no action, no emotion, no humor and generally nothing to engage your interest in any way; even the supporting characters are colorless. The previous reviewer was right: don't bother. (*1/2)
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Heartbreaking stories
bkoganbing29 October 2017
One of the few feature films to have illegal aliens Borderline has Charles Bronson in charge of a border patrol station in Arizona. It's a thankless task he has because as is made clear a lot of these illegals are just pursuing the American dream. And why not? They read about the Statue Of Liberty and if they get to New York they see the lovely Ms. Liberty in our harbor with those words about "bring me your tired, your poor.....etc."

But what Borderline says is that illegal smuggling is a more organized racket than we think and Bronson has no doubt that it was those smuggling illegals who murdered his partner Wilford Brimley and a young Mexican kid Panchito Gomez. The FBI says it was drugs, Bronson says it was human smugglers. Therein lies the story.

Although he did some television and a few bits in some feature films, Borderline gives an 'introducing' credit to Ed Harris who plays a former Marine and killer of Brimley. He's not at the top of the villainy food chain here, but his skills make him a dangerous foe for Bronson. He's a coldblooded piece of work.

Also note Bruno Kirby as a new trainee from New York as if that speech pattern would have him from anywhere else.

One thing I didn't like was the business where Bronson goes undercover with a group of illegals using Karmin Murcelo the mother of the deceased boy as a guide because she is Spanish speaking of course. In real life he would have taken her information and I'm sure the Border Patrol has any number of Spanish speaking female agents for such work. Just ridiculous.

It's a complex topic, but Borderline dealing with smuggling illegal aliens will find favor with Charles Bronson fans.
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A Bit Too Low Key But a Good Bronson Film
Michael_Elliott14 August 2017
Borderline (1980)

*** (out of 4)

Jeb Maynard (Charles Bronson) works the U.S.-Mexico border and is dealing with a large number of illegal immigrants sneaking into the country. One day his partner is brutally murdered in the line of duty so Jeb sets out to find who's behind it. The Federal boys thinks it's related to drugs but Jef feels there's another motive.

BORDERLINE is a film that never gets discussed. You could gather up a thousand Bronson fans and question them on any movie in his long career and I'd say very few would have even seen this one. It's really too bad because while the movie isn't a complete success it's at least entertaining enough that fans of the actor should give it a chance and especially since it offers him up a different type of role.

I'm going to guess this film isn't all that popular because there's really not much of a violent streak to it. There's one brutal murder shown but it's not overly graphic since it's basically just a shotgun blast. I think the 'revenge' aspect people love with Bronson means they want to see him go out and blow away people and that doesn't happen here. Instead what we're treated to is a low-key movie about a simple man trying to solve a murder. There aren't any shoot outs or a high body count.

I think the film moves a bit too slow for its own good and there's no question that a higher speed would have helped things. Outside of that I think the film is mostly a success. Bronson turns in yet another quiet but good performance and you can't help but think he liked being able to play a more serious part here. The supporting cast includes a nice turn by Bruno Kirby as well as Wilford Brimley in a small bit. Ed Harris really stands out here as the cold-blooded killer. He doesn't say much but you can feel the coldness of his character just by looking at Harris' eyes.

It's doubtful this film will ever have a great number of fans and that's understandable but at the same time more Bronson fans should give it a shot.
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Worthy and underrated Bronson vehicle
Woodyanders20 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Weary, but tough and dedicated border patrolman Jeb Maynard (a fine and credible performance by Charles Bronson) investigates the murder of his crusty partner Scooter Jackson (a pleasingly grumpy cameo by Wilford Brimley) at the hands of the ruthless Hotchkiss (Ed Harris, who's chilling and excellent in his first substantial film role), who makes his living smuggling illegal Mexican immigrants into America.

Director Jerrold Freedman, who also co-wrote the taut and involving script with Steve Kline, grounds the topical premise in a plausible workaday reality, keeps the absorbing story moving along at a steady pace, makes nice use of dusty'n'desolate rural locations, maintains a gritty serious tone throughout, and handles the central issue of illegal immigration with taste and sensitivity (those exacting a typically trashy 80's Bronson schlockfest will be greatly disappointed, as this is probably one of Charlie's more earnest and less sensational pictures made in the 1980's). Karmin Murcelo contributes a touching turn as helpful and distraught illegal Elena Morales while Bruno Kirby makes a likable impression as Jeb's eager new rookie partner Jimmy Fante. Moreover, the sterling cast of reliable character actors gives this picture an extra lift: Bert Remsen as crooked rancher Carl J. Richards, Michael Lerner as corrupt businessman Henry Lydell, Kenneth McMillan as sympathetic fed Malcolm Wallace, Norman Alden as the jolly Willie Lambert, Charles Cyphers and John Ashton as fellow border cops, and Luis Contreras as an odious bandit. Tak Fujimoto's sharp cinematography provides an impressive polished look. Gill Melle's bluesy score does the moody trick. Recommended viewing.
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Wizard-829 June 1999
I can't understand why Bronson would choose to appear in such a low-key and predictable movie (unless it was for the money). There's almost no action, there's almost no investigating of the mystery, and you can tell what's going to happen next in almost every part of the movie. Even if you are a Bronson fan, you shouldn't bother with this entry in Bronson's filmography.
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Some Stuff That Happened
Bolesroor25 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I love Charles Bronson, and I really wanted to love "Borderline," but it's about as exciting as a trip to the grocery store.

It's the story of a criminal syndicate that smuggles Mexicans into the US like they were cattle, abusing and under-paying them as illegal laborers. It seems that some shady companies will pay big bucks for employees they can treat like slaves, and as a Border Patrol Officer it's Bronson's job to stop the flow of immigrants at the source.

Except no one seems to care. None of the characters have any personality, there are no surprises and not really any action, either. The actors move from scene to scene because the script tells them to... no one has any passion or clear motivation. The movie is filmed without any sense of the fantastic... the Director seems to believe that it's all really happening, but the problem is he doesn't find any of it exciting in the least.

Charles Bronson is almost invisible as the lead... he's looks like he could barely keep from falling asleep. Wilford Brimley, Bruno Kirby, and Ed Harris show up in supporting roles, but they too are in mellow comas, low-energy and reciting their lines quietly... The cinematography is awful, and call me old-fashioned by I much prefer a beautiful girl to look at in a film than dozens and dozens of mustachioed Mexicans. There are no women in the film.

It's a good thing I wrote this review immediately after seeing the movie, because I can already feel it slipping from my memory like a daydream on a summer afternoon. There's nothing to see here, even for Bronson die-hards. This isn't a movie... it's just some stuff that happened.

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