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.