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Immigration enforcement agent Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) lives in California with his wife Marcy (Valerie Perrine) in a trailer. She persuades him to move to a duplex in El Paso shared by her friend and U.S. Border Patrol agent Cat (Harvey Keitel). Cat convinces Charlie to become a U.S. Border Patrol agent as well. Marcy opens a charge account and starts to purchase expensive items like a water bed as she tries to build a dream home. Cat gradually introduces Smith to the human smuggling operation he runs with their supervisor Red (Warren Oates). Though Smith initially declines to participate, his wife's free-spending ways make him finally take part in the operation. Meanwhile, a young Mexican mother that he has observed is detained, and while she is in their custody, one of Cat's drivers abducts her baby for an illegal adoption. Charlie becomes more and more disillusioned and he finally decides to take a stand for the young Mexican mother and against the corruption he's fallen into...
Vincent Canby of the New York Times said the movie "has the sort of predictable outrage and shape of a made-for-television movie. It has suspense but little excitement. Once the people and the situation have been introduced, there's not a single surprise in the film, nothing of the uncharacteristic sort that differentiates the adequate melodrama from one that is special and memorable. Like so many films prompted by real-life social problems, The Border is a movie in which the characters appear to have been created to fit the events. Missing is any sense of particularity, as well as the excitement that comes when the members of the audience are allowed to discover some sort of truth for themselves."
"The Border" has a story with good intent (and it´s a quite current one these days in 2017) with immigration, betrayal and corruption, but there´s no surprises nor that much excitement as Vincent Canby of the New York Times mentions in his review. We get solid acting from Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel and the rest of the cast. But that´s just not enough. The film has no real highs and no real lows. It´s like a constant flatline throughout the running time. With that said, "The Border" still engages and provokes thoughts, but with a stronger direction the film might have become better and more memorable.
I remember being fascinated by the is film when I saw it as a kid, telling a story set along the US/Mexico border and revealing to me a human drama I was previously unfamiliar with. Watching the film again, it still holds up as a strong piece of filmmaking, but I saw it in a new light, as a revisionist western that should have been directed by Sam Peckinpah (not to mention seeing the film's relevance to our current political climate around immigration). Jack Nicholson plays a disillusioned border agent surrounded by other corrupt agents, particularly his best buddy, fellow agent Harvey Keitel. Jack is pressured to join in on the dirty dealings by Keitel and indirectly by his vapid, spendthrift wife, Valerie Perrine, who wants to build Jack their dream home, to which Jack replies, "I can't afford a f------- dream house!" and "No more, Marcy. No more's no more. No more does not mean more, and more, and more! No more means no more!" In general, Jack is pretty disgusted with the world around him and the American/capitalist way of life, but sees a chance to do some good by helping a young woman and her child he meets crossing the border. "The Border" was written by Walon Green, who co-wrote Peckinpah's classic western "The Wild Bunch," and both films share many of the same themes; disillusionment, betrayal, and the desire to live a simpler life by what others would consider an anachronistic code of honor. Directed by British filmmaker Tony Richardson, he gives the actors room to move through this dusty sweaty story, but he lacks the visual style and the harder edge that Peckinpah would have brought to the picture. Had this film been directed by Peckinpah, "The Border" might have been his best film, although his alcoholism and volatile personality during this period may have prevented that. The mediocre "Convoy" and "The Osterman Weekend" were his only two films around this period and he died shortly thereafter, but Peckinpah directing "The Border" is an interesting what-if to consider. Also worth mentioning is a fine score by Ry Cooder and excellent dusty dry photography by Ric Waite. Overall, despite a great script and a stellar cast (which included Peckinpah stock company actor Warren Oates) "The Borer" misses the mark at greatness. However, it's still a smart, engaging, and thought provoking film. Nicholson once said that of all the pictures he had been in, this was the best film he had ever made. I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but with a stronger director he may have been correct.
A solid and stunningly shot thriller but lacking for Tony Richardson.
More people kind of need to know about this one.
2/15/2015: The acting was very good, but the movie was not that entertaining or interesting. I was mostly bored throughout.
Encontrarmos Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel e Warren Oates, no mesmo filme, bastaria para que "The Border" fosse imprescindível, mas o valor deste conto moral protagonizado por homens rijos vai além dessa oportunidade de ver grandes senhores em cena. Em primeiro lugar e acima de tudo o resto, Jack Nicholson tem um daqueles papéis de que é praticamente impossível desviar o olhar, tal é o seu magnetismo e estofo humano. Não seria de admirar que o igualmente fabuloso Javier de Benicio del Toro (em "Traffic") tivesse retirado alguma da sua inspiração deste polícia de fronteira. Fronteira que é aliás uma figura da maior importância no filme de Tony Richardson, realizador que tem bem delineados os limites entre a futilidade (Califórnia) e as necessidades básicas (México), ou entre a integridade e a falta dela. No final há um glorioso tiroteio à moda de Peckinpah e "The Border" só não é intocável por falta de algum ritmo no segundo acto.
Interesting take on border corruption.
Nicholson gives a good brooding performance, but other than that he did not have much support. Props for raising awareness about the border problems with Mexico, including the criminal element and corruption. It brings americans off their cloud of ignorance and bliss.
An underrated flick with a great cast (Nicholson! Keitel!) and decent direction, which more or less compensate for a predictable plot.
Everything about this film worked, it was just really conventional and predictable.