It's always sad to see once celebrated performers resort to slumming it up in terrible DTV dreck. From Val Kilmer, Ray Liotta, and Cuba Gooding Jr., to, uh… Val Kilmer and Ray Liotta, or Val Kilmer and Cuba Gooding Jr., it's rarely a pretty sight. So, with that in mind, believe me when I say, I take absolutely no pleasure in the fact that Sharon Stone's latest starring vehicle, 'Border Run,' is such a horrendously bad flick. The Academy Award nominated actress hasn't had the best track record in recent years, but she still deserves better than this. Hell, even co-star Billy Zane deserves better than this. Well, maybe. I mean, he was 'The Phantom.' That has to count for something, right? Regardless, what we get here is a trite, nonsensical, laughably plotted thriller that unsuccessfully attempts to capitalize on a hot-button political issue.
Purportedly inspired by true events, the story follows Sofie (Sharon Stone), a reporter who vehemently opposes illegal immigration. When she learns that her brother, Aaron (Billy Zane), has gone missing in Mexico, she decides to cross the border to search for him herself. As her investigation heats up, she slowly unravels a dark conspiracy entrenched in violence, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. Placed right in the shoes of the immigrants that she so callously dehumanizes, Sofie is now forced to completely rethink her outlook on life. But with Mexican criminals and the U.S. Border Patrol out to get her, will she survive long enough to save her brother, or will they both suffer the same deadly fate?
While the missing person plotline offers a solid set-up to build upon, the narrative quickly devolves into unengaging banality and irrational stupidity. Full of comically poor decision making, the limp drama feels contrived and the storytelling is frustratingly muddled. Though Sofie at first seems desperate to find her brother, there are a few odd moments where she appears to completely forget that he exists. This is perhaps no better enumerated than in one particularly head-scratching sequence where she takes an unnecessary detour from her search. On the road with one of Aaron's Mexican co-workers (Manolo Cardona), Sofie stumbles upon an important lead, but instead of following it, the pair decides to stop off at a bar where they proceed to get drunk and then sloppily make-out with each other on the dance floor. Meanwhile, poor Billy Zane is tied up somewhere getting beaten to death, perilously moving in and out of consciousness as he struggles to understand how he went from being a superhero, to playing a damsel in distress that nobody wants to save.
As a whole, none of the characters' plans make any sense. Likewise, the twists all fall flat, the protagonists' and antagonists' choices are all equally illogical, and the actors do little to help sell their idiotic behavior. In her defense, Sharon Stone is mostly passable as the lead, but her performance often feels forced, right down to the character's physical appearance. The actress trades in her usual blonde locks and sultry persona for a black wig and glasses -- you know, because dark hair and myopia instantly add credibility to any serious role. Though, come to think of it, she actually ditches the spectacles very early on. Were there even lenses in those things?! Unnecessary eye-wear aside, the filmmakers really do put the character through hell, and while Stone isn't afraid to push herself, there are times when she goes a little over-the-top, resulting in some performance quirks and facial expressions that are unintentionally funny.
The ironic reversal that rests at the core of Sofie's arc could have conceivably led to some decent drama, but the execution of the concept is so formulaic and flimsy that it's just plain groan-inducing. Stone starts off as nothing more than a thinly drawn conservative stereotype, and even then, the filmmakers spend very little time establishing the character. The goal seems to be to take Sofie on an eye-opening journey that gradually shows her the errors of her insensitive ways, but this transformation basically occurs with the flip of a switch. Despite what the hastily realized opening scenes imply, Sofie is almost instantly shown to be compassionate and empathetic toward the would-be illegal immigrants she comes across. Though the character is put in some unrelentingly brutal situations, there is no real emotional evolution. Instead, she basically tosses aside her uncaring viewpoints the second she crosses the border, making any further eye-rolling epiphanies redundant.
Immigration reform is a controversial issue, and no matter what side of the topic you fall on, it's clear that it shouldn't be dealt with flippantly. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have the competency needed to tackle the subject properly, and instead it just comes across as a superficial way to capitalize on current events. The ultimate message gets bogged down by stilted histrionics, and the Border Patrol officers are depicted as nothing more than heartless, inept fools. In one humorously puzzling scene, an officer arrests Sofie and securely cuffs her -- but his partner then needlessly continues to aim an extremely large gun at her as if she's going to suddenly pull an Incredible Hulk and burst free from her metal shackles. She's been captured and was never really a threat to begin with, you can lower your weapon now, buddy.
To the filmmakers credit, there are a few legitimately affecting sequences that show some of the gut-wrenching hardships people face in their attempts to cross the border, but the terrible scripting nullifies most of their impact. A disturbing rape sequence is especially hard to watch, and features an almost David Lynchian shooting style of uncomfortable grotesqueness. To be honest, I'm still not sure if the scene is legitimately powerful, or just grossly ill-advised, but considering the incompetency found in the rest of the film, I'm going to have to lean toward the latter.
I know no one really sets out to make a bad movie, but after watching direct-to-video turkeys like this, I'm often left wondering how they're actually expected to make money. 'Border Run' cost an estimated 5 million dollars (according to IMDB), and I just can't fathom there being an audience big enough to recoup that kind of investment. Nor can I understand how anyone involved in the production thought that there would be. This all leaves me with one lingering question: Who the hell is writing these checks?! Seriously, I need to know. If you have their contact information please send it my way. I've got a great idea for a movie, and all I need is some financing. It's going to star Val Kilmer, Ray Liotta, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Sharon Stone! There's no way that could possibly go wrong… is there?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay brings 'Border Run' to Blu-ray on a BD-25 disc housed in a keepcase. After some warnings and logos, the screen transitions to a standard menu. The packaging indicates that the release is region A coded.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Decent but unimpressive, the image is often drab and blown out, and there are some artifacts here and there.
The digital source is competent, but banding (particularly in skies), aliasing around edges, and distracting spikes in noise are visible periodically. Clarity is solid throughout, revealing fine details in facial features and textures in background objects, but some shots do veer toward the soft side. Many scenes are set across the arid Mexican border and thus the color palette is often drab, with blooming whites and a lack of depth. With that said, there are some occasional splashes of vibrancy, particularly during a brief Day of the Dead celebration. Blacks levels are fair but are a little inconsistent and murky.
The video's periodic artifacts are most likely inherent to the low budget equipment used, but the resulting picture is still rather dull and bland.
The film is presented with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track along with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. There's an adequate sense of immersion here, but some distractingly overpowered bass activity leads to a few problematic balance issues.
Dialogue is clear but a little thin compared to other contemporary releases. The mix is mostly front-heavy, but appropriate surround use comes into play when called for, sending snapping cameras and gunshots around the room. The film's music also features nice separation and fidelity. Unfortunately, the track's bass activity is bizarrely unbalanced, and offers several unnecessarily booming low frequency cues that are seemingly tied to the score. This is especially troublesome around the 10:30 mark where an incredibly annoying sustained bass tone comes in and out for no apparent reason. Later scenes also feature similarly unmotivated rumbles, but oddly the actual shootouts are a bit underpowered. Beyond the uneven low frequencies, dynamic range is solid.
For the most part, this is an effective but uneventful mix. With that said, the irritating bass issues can be troublesome, and do negatively impact the experience.
We get absolutely nothing here, but honestly, I can't really say that I'm disappointed. If anything, I'm actually relieved that I don't have to listen to another delusional commentary track where the filmmakers seem completely unaware of how bad their movie is.
'Border Run' is a terrible DTV effort that tries to take advantage of a hot-button issue, but fails miserably. There is some merit in the filmmakers' examination of the brutality and callous indifference that illegal immigrants face, but the proceedings get bogged down by comically nonsensical character choices and trite plotting. The video is decent but bland, and the audio mix would've been solid if it wasn't plagued by some annoying bass issues. There are absolutely no special features included, rounding out an underwhelming disc for a really bad movie. Unless you're a huge Sharon Stone fan, this is one to avoid.