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Thursday, February 21, 2013

BORDER RUN -- Blu-Ray review by porfle

Sharon Stone as a conservative, "fair and balanced" TV reporter who's against illegal immigration?  Well, I just knew that sounded too un-Hollywood to be true, and sure enough, before BORDER RUN (2012) is over, her character has an epiphany that revs her overacting dial up to eleven and beyond.

Sharon plays "hard-nosed right-wing journalist" Sophie Talbert, who, with a black fright wig emphasizing her pale skin, hardly looks like someone who lives right on the Arizona-Mexico border.  Like Jane Fonda's initially conservative TV newswoman in THE CHINA SYNDROME, she's on the wrong side of the issue at hand (by Tinseltown standards, that is) until shown the error of her ways--in this case, when her own relief-worker brother Aaron (Billy Zane) disappears in Mexico and she must enter the world of the illegal immigrant herself in order to find him. 

After Sophie arrives in Mexico, Aaron's co-worker Rafael (Rosemberg Salgado) offers to take her in his pickup to a meeting with someone named Javier who may be able to help her.  On the way there, they form an instant romantic bond that has them stopping off at a roadside bar to get drunk and dance while precious minutes in the missing Aaron's life tick away.  This odd passage indicates how awkward some of the tone shifts and scene transitions will be for the rest of the film.

Before we know it, Sophie and Rafael get separated and she meets up with Javier (Miguel Rodarte), joining a group of migrants whom he's smuggling across the border.  Naturally, Sophie's rigid attitude toward the whole thing begins to change when she discovers that some of the migrants are nice people with heartwarming personal stories (imagine that!), and that the process tends to be both dangerous and uncomfortable. 

Just how dangerous becomes clear when the tanker truck they're stashed inside gets diverted to a remote farmhouse well short of the border, where Sophie meets the film's main villain, Juanita (Giovanna Zacarías), a real piece of work who could easily be the poster girl for PMS.  We've already seen this mega-bitch-on-wheels repeatedly beating up the bound Aaron, who's also being held there, and now we get to see her kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach while one of her fat, sweaty henchmen has his way with the bound Sophie. 

This decidedly unpleasant rape scene gives Sharon Stone yet another chance to do some full-tilt emoting and it will be far from her last.  I won't go into everything that occurs next but after an escape, a chase, and the proverbial run for the border, Sophie ends up in a border station where her newly-found righteous indignation against U.S. immigration policy is given full vent.  Here, Sharon lets loose with a "big acting" moment by throwing a fit that is borderline (excuse the phrase) hilarious.

You might think that the film, having made its point, will fade out on Sophie's return to the USA to crusade against immigration reform, but this is when BORDER RUN pulls a plot twist on us that's worthy of a horror movie, with Sophie suddenly ending up in more grave peril than ever.  With this added sequence, the film finally lurches all the way into "so bad it's good" territory and makes me wish I'd been watching it as a wacky exploitation flick instead of a misguided message pic all along.

As mentioned before, Sharon Stone's performance here is wonderfully bad, especially since director Gabriela Tagliavini seems intent on photographing her as unflatteringly as possible from start to finish.  Billy Zane, who plays Aaron, demonstrates once again that if a project doesn't make him feel like turning on the old "Billy Zane" magic, he's Stiff City.  And as the monstrous Juanita, Giovanna Zacarías almost makes Al Pacino look like a study in subtlety.

The Blu-Ray disc from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  No extras.

BORDER RUN is ridiculously melodramatic where it means to be hard-hitting, and goes for big emotional moments that it hasn't really earned.  A weird combination of social relevance and pure exploitation, it fails as a "good" movie but succeeds, to some extent anyway, as a perversely entertaining train wreck. 

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