A corrupt border Agent decides to clean up his act when an impoverished woman's baby is put up for sale on the black market.A corrupt border Agent decides to clean up his act when an impoverished woman's baby is put up for sale on the black market.A corrupt border Agent decides to clean up his act when an impoverished woman's baby is put up for sale on the black market.
This is an unabashedly simple movie, much to its credit. And that simplicity includes Jack. Almost all of the critics point out that this is Jack at his "UnJackest". Only one true "Jack" moment, and that is when he dumps the grill into that awful, tacky poolette and exclaims, "Soup's on!". And even that moment is appropriate to the situation, hilarious, and much needed comic relief.
'The Border' has every chance to drown in cliche, but to Tony Richardson's credit, it never does. The characters could so easily have become good guy/bad guy caricatures, but to the credit of an amazing supporting cast, they never do.
And OH what a supporting cast! Harvey Keitel is terrific, especially when he is trying to reign in his bimbo, drunken, horndog wife. Cat can handle the meanest border scum, but is a whipped puppy with Ms. Thang. Which leads to the superb performances of both Shannon Wilcox and Valerie Perrine as the Boobsey Twin Airheads from Hell. Check out their rendition of their high school cheerleading chant. Also loved Warren Oates as the crooked Border Patrol Chief, particularly the scene where he explains to the sleazy drop point bad guy (one character dangerously close to cliche) that their truck of "wets" got caught by a couple of honest border guards and "Goddamit, I ain't got no control over that! That's just gonna happen sometimes."
But for me, the supporting performance at the soul of this film is Elpidia Carrillo's heart-wrenching, moving portrayal of Maria. All she is asked to do is symbolize everything pure, noble, and long-suffering, to be the Mexican Madonna. And to do it with about 5 lines of dialogue in the entire film, and that is in Spanish. Oh, and she's about 18 years old and this is her first American film. And guess what? She's simply amazing, conveying more in a single expression than most actresses could in 10 pages of dialogue. Of course it helps to be born with one of the most expressive, open faces in the universe, and boy does she know how to use it. (Carrillo had a similar role, even named Maria, in Oliver Stone's 'Salvador' a couple of years later, and was equally as good. She was also outstanding as Jimmy Smits' wife in 'My Family'. She finally got her just acclaim a couple of years ago in Ken Louche's 'Bread and Roses', winning an ALMA and even having the critics talking Oscar, and for the lead in the Mexican historical epic 'The Other Conquest').
The scene that will always stick in my mind has Charley going to the sad hovel occupied by Maria and her brother to give them the money to pay a coyote to bring them across. Maria is confused, wondering why he would help them. Then she thinks she knows, and with a whole world of sad resignation on her young shoulders, without a word, begins to undress. The Jack/Charley that responds, telling her gently that she owes him nothing, that he just wants to to feel good about something, sometime, is so simple, so sweet, and so heart-felt that it may be one of Jack's finest, most authentic screen moments. Never mind that she doesn't understand a word; they connect. A simple but deeply moving scene; it connects.
Go rent this simple straightforward film with its fine acting and directing. In its simple way, it is a powerful, unforgettable classic.
- Sep 11, 2003