Thursday, November 02, 2023

Death on the Border, Co-Starring Eric Roberts & Danny Trejo

You might not think there would be much crime around the border, since Kamala Harris is our super-efficient and proactive “Border Czar,” but somehow, there is. Many of the “undocumented immigrants” smuggled across the border by coyotes are, in fact, victims of human trafficking. Det. John Boone and his former partner Det. John Watson were paid to look the other way, but the cartel has inevitably demanded they take a more active role. Their disgusted former lovers are not having it anymore in screenwriter-director Wendy Wilkins’ Death on the Border, which opens this Friday.

At least Boone is an old charmer (you can tell, because Eric Roberts plays him). According to Rhonda, being with him had its benefits (you know). It does not seem the same can be said for Watson, Maddy’s ex. Presumably, Maddy did not know their connection when Rhonda happens to pull her over along a lonely stretch of desert highway. However, she leaves the soon-to-be ex-cop enough clues to figure it out, after she knocks Rhonda unconscious and stuffs her in the trunk of her own cruise.

After an introduction like that, Rhonda is strangely willing to join Maddy’s war against the cartel and the pair of crooked cops. Every time they rescue a shipment of young girls, they deliver them to kindly Father Francis. Figuring out what to do with them long-term is sometimes tricky, because in some cases, it was their own parents who sold them to the traffickers. Of course, their success rescuing victims forces the cartel to put the squeeze on Boone and Watson.

It is a shame
Death at the Border is not a better film, because border security and human trafficking are deadly serious issues. It starts with the slapdash screenplay, which has serious logical issues. Explaining why characters do certain things at certain times would take a great deal of contortionism. It also seems like Wilkins just grafted on some faith-oriented dialogue, just to appeal to fans of Price of Freedom (granted, that admittedly makes a lot of sense).

Roberts chewing the scenery as Boone is the only part of
Border that is fun to watch, which is ironic, conserving how skin-crawlingly revolting his character is. Danny Trejo also effectively plays against type as the saintly Father Francis. Unfortunately, as Maddy, Shannon Elizabeth is unconvincing in both dramatic and action contexts, but at least Kika Magalhaes delivers the faith-based message with conviction.

The conditions around the border are still chaotic, approaching absolute anarchy, so we could use a potent drama that focuses a spotlight on the issue—but this is not it. Instead, it is a clunky story populated with poor decision-makers. Not recommended,
Death on the Border opens tomorrow (11/3) in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Glendale.