Anchor Bay // 2013 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 26th, 2013
Trust no one.
Some issues are tough to make films about. There's the danger of being too sensitive, and therefore not having a compelling story to tell. On the flip side, there's the danger of telling a story that's too compelling, which causes viewers to lose sight of the issue in the first place. Many issues, though, evolve and go from dramatically untouchable to box office gold. Illegal immigration is a topic that has definitely evolved over the last century or so, though its prominence in pop culture is a recent phenomenon. Though it's a serious topic that gets debated on the national stage with regularity, it's also a trope in films and television that has because almost invisible due to its ubiquity. It seems like every dramatic show I watch has to have an episode with some kind of illegal immigration component. Heck, even Mythbusters tackled an immigration-related myth (with the "Canadian" human catapult story). Border Run tries to straddle the line between treating immigration as a serious dramatic problem and telling a rip-roaring action story, but its neither here-nor-there approach will turn a lot of viewers off.
Sofie (Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct) is a conservative journalist who makes her living exposing those who are "soft" on illegal immigration. Then, her brother goes missing down in Mexico, and Sofie must head south of the border to investigate. What she finds there will change her whole outlook on everything she holds dear.
Border Run is a lot like a fairy tale. No, I don't mean there are dragons and princesses. Rather, it's structure much like a classical fairy tale: a lone person journeys into a land of dangers to learn the truth about something they thought they understood. In the case of Border Run, we have a confidently conservative journalist who must go to the dangerous land of Mexico to learn the that the truth she thought she knew is way more complicated than her previous views could support.
That structure cuts both ways. On the one hand, it gives Border Run plenty of opportunities for action-laden flights of fancy. There are numerous scenes of action (especially in the second half), and Sharon Stone takes another excellent turn in a thriller. The fairy tale is good for creating instant reasons to root for characters. In this case, we have Sharon Stone's Sofie looking for her brother Aaron, which quickly sketches out a relationship and an objective for Sofie to accomplish.
On the other hand, as a fairy tale, Border Run has a difficult time being serious. One of the strengths of the fairy tale is the whole "Once upon a time" thing; we don't need much setup. There's a guy (or gal), something magical, and a quest to fulfill. That's it. Border Run, though, has a lot to set up. There's immigration and journalism and kidnapping -- and that's before plot twists and betrayals. The frequent references to the real-world issues slow down the narrative, while the narrative gets increasingly harder to understand without the real-world context it has to drop to keep things moving. It's a Catch-22 that the film never resolves. This means the action could be leaner, or the dramatic elements more affecting.
Unlike most fairy tales (at least in their current, whitewashed versions), Border Run is not a family friendly tale, and it earns its R rating with loads of violence (including rape) and drug content. Sensitive viewers should steer clear.
Middling or not, Border Run (Blu-ray) is decent. The 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is strong on detail and color saturation. Fine textures are evident in closeups, and wider shots show a pleasing amount of resolution. There is some noise during darker scenes and the blacks could be a lot more consistent, but overall, the film looks good here. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is similarly well-done. Dialogue is clean and clear from the center, while the rest of the soundstage is populated by immersive atmospheric effects and the film's score. Dynamic range is appropriate, and even the low end gets a workout during action-oriented scenes.
Sadly the disc contains no extras , not even a trailer.
I don't want to make Border Run sound worse than it is. It's a decent little thriller that bites off more than it can chew. Thanks to decent performances (especially from Stone and Zane), the film is worth at least a rental for fans of the actors. Though Border Run (Blu-ray) could use some special features, its technical presentation is strong enough to encourage rentals.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R