48 user 33 critic

The Border (1982)

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.


Tony Richardson





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nicholson ... Charlie Smith
Harvey Keitel ... Cat
Valerie Perrine ... Marcy
Warren Oates ... Red
Elpidia Carrillo ... Maria
Shannon Wilcox ... Savannah
Manuel Viescas Manuel Viescas ... Juan
Jeff Morris Jeff Morris ... J.J.
Mike Gomez ... Manuel
Dirk Blocker ... Beef
Lonny Chapman ... Andy
Stacey Pickren Stacey Pickren ... Hooker
Floyd Levine ... Lou
James Jeter James Jeter ... Frank
Alan Fudge ... Hawker


U.S. Border Patrol agent Charlie Smith just wants to do a good job and provide for his wife. But between her demands for a more affluent lifestyle and the importuning of Charlie's partner Cat to take part in illegal activities in exchange for bribes, Charlie gets caught up in helping smuggle illegal immigrants across the Texas border. When one of them, a young Mexican girl named Maria, loses her baby to abductors who plan to sell the child, Charlie decides to take a stand for her and against the corruption he's fallen into. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It divided the land. It divided the man. See more »


Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Elpidia Carrillo's performance in this movie in the role of Clara was originally intended to be without dialogue. The movie was the first American film of Elpidia Carrillo, and was the first of several Latin American related movies made by Hollywood in the 1980s, in which Carrillo appeared. The others being Beyond the Limit (1983), Under Fire (1983), and Salvador (1986), Capillo's part in the latter having been said to have been very similar to her role in this movie. See more »


Not so much a mistake, but just some darn good filmmaking. Near the end of the film Charlie Smith(Jack Nicholson) is having a shootout with J.J.(Jeff Morris). J.J. , carrying a loaded shotgun, is trying to escape Charlie's gunfire outside a barn. J.J. runs into a wire or equipment obstruction and falls to the ground accidentally triggering the shotgun and blowing out his own brains. Some good stop-motion photography is employed here and an obvious dummy or mannequin is revealed as J.J. gets the shotgun blast. Nicholson's character Charlie Smith stands aghast as the dead J.J.'s brains ooze out and shotgun smear covers his body. The stop-motion dummy is similar to the scene in "Casino"(1995) where Robert DeNiro gets into his Cadillac, turns the ignition, and the car turns into a fireball revealing an obvious dummy/mannequin. See more »


Cat: Listen to me. I'm sure you can appreciate somethin'. We got a business situation here. These independents get too big, that comes out of our end.
Charlie Smith: So, what, you just fuckin' kill 'em?
Cat: We take care of business. That's all we do. We take care of business.
Charlie Smith: You see this fuckin' line? This line right here I don't cross! This fuckin' line right here!
See more »


Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »


Building Fires
Written by Jim Dickinson, Dan Penn, Johnny Christopher
Performed by Brenda Patterson
See more »

User Reviews

My favorite Jack Nicholson Film -- A hidden gem
20 July 2011 | by drwnuttSee all my reviews

Jack Nicholson gives a wonderfully controlled performance in this film. His restraint and control is contrasted to Harvey Keitel's fallen character and to his out-of-control, childish wife (Valerie Perrine). He works in dishonest circumstances in which he enforces the law selectively in a tacit arrangement with crooked businessmen. In so doing he is a part of the exploitation of Mexican workers. When he transfers from L.A. to Texas, his conscience is awakened by his dishonest co-worker and a beautiful, victimized Latina (Elpidia Carillo) and her child.

There is plenty of action and the story moves in response to the characters.

Freddy Fender and Ry Cooder provide memorable and haunting music that just makes the whole film so much more powerful.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

12 February 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Border See more »

Filming Locations:

Antigua, Guatemala See more »


Box Office


$22,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$516,014, 31 January 1982

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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