Director: Michael Berry
Cast: Ed Harris, Eva Longoria, Michael Peña
Synopsis: A former Arizona sheriff’s wife is killed while riding on their ranch property. It would appear a Mexican man illegally crossing into the US is at fault. As the former and the current sheriff search for answers, lives are changed forever.
Had Michael Berry, the co-writer (with Louis Moulinet) and director of Frontera chosen to concentrate on just one or two strands of the film’s storyline instead of trying to pay equal attention to up to a half-dozen sub-plots at any given time he might have crafted a fine movie. Unfortunately, he tries to cover too much ground, and introduces a sub-plot halfway through the film which adds nothing other than to extend the film’s running time to a reasonable length. Perhaps that was the reason, but when your plot is about the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States you would expect most screenwriters to be able to create a feature-length screenplay.
Ed Harris (Pain & Gain, Gravity) is Roy, a stoic horseman and landowner on the Mexican border whose wife (Amy Madigan) dies when she falls from a horse that has been spooked by shots fired by some high school kids. The kids were trying to frighten a couple of illegal immigrants, Miguel (Michael Peña – Gangster Squad, American Hustle) and Jose (Michael Ray Escamilla), and by the time Roy reaches his dying wife after hearing the rifle shots he finds Miguel standing over her and holding the reins of her horse. The local sheriff, who assumed the role when Roy retired, considers it an open-and-shut case, but the grieving Roy isn’t so sure and decides to carry out an investigation of his own.
The movie’s focus was a little loose to begin with, wandering a little aimlessly from Roy to Miguel to the killer school kids without really developing the story. It’s almost as if Berry had based the movie on real incidents and was slavishly trying to include every detail, but the film is pure fiction. But when Miguel’s family in Mexico learn of his arrest for murder and raise the money for an organised smuggler to get his wife (Eva Longoria) across the border the movie heads off on a different course for the next twenty minutes, leaving the murder plot to grow cold in the background. Quite what she was hoping to achieve by crossing the border is never explained, and her story goes from harrowing to unintentionally comical in a matter of two or three scenes.
(Reviewed 26th December 2014)