Borderline (1980) a (Ridiculously) Belated Review

I’m a big fan of the late actor Charles Bronson. He may not have had the greatest range, but he was a hard working actor who seemed determined to keep working through his entire life.

A while back, and just for the heck of it, I looked up all the films he was in in through the decade of the 1970’s (ie, 1970 through 1979) and was stunned to find he was in an astonishing 24 films during those nine years, most of which he starred in!

Not all of them were great, but a surprising number are, IMHO, watchable, and I even listed some I really enjoyed (you can read that original post here).

But, IMHO, things changed once we reached 1980. By that point, Bronson was approaching his 60th year and, frankly, wasn’t looking quite as spry as he was before. Worse for him, the quality of the movies he was in started to lag, sometimes -especially with the grindhouse-like Cannon Films- into seemingly countless repeats of his Death Wish role and roles similar to that.

In looking over his filmography, its interesting to see that the shift from decent/quality films to lesser works does seem to fall in the year 1980, when Charles Bronson starred in a “mere” two films, the Casablanca (!) like Cabo Blanco and Borderline, the film I’m reviewing here.

At this moment, the film is available in its entirety on YouTube, and I’ve provided a link to it here:

I saw Borderline many years before and, frankly, I had very few memories of it, if any. I recalled Bronson was playing a Border patrol cop and dealing with a problem that seems to be a constant: The flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico.

What was somewhat surprising about seeing the film is that it truly seems to try to show sympathy for those who are illegally crossing, pointing out that they do so because jobs -menial though they may be- are offered and that there are rich folks in the U.S. who willingly take them on… even while they wash their hands about what they’re doing.

Borderline specifically focuses on Bronson and his overwhelmed group and how they have to deal with one particular human smuggling operation and one particularly nasty smuggler, played by Ed Harris in what as his first theatrical movie role (he had appeared in TV shows prior to this film and had a extremely small cameo/extra role in Coma). Here, he’s the one Bronson is after, though their confrontation winds up being one of the very few “action” sequences in the film.

Indeed, the film plays itself out mostly in a tame way. Bronson and his boys are dealing -as nicely as possible- with the illegal immigrants while Harris’s character treats them like cattle and, when nearly caught by one of Bronson’s deputies (played in a very small role by Wilford Brimley), blood is shed, Bronson decides to focus on finding and apprehending this particular human smuggling organization.

What follows is Bronson going deep undercover and seeing the smuggling operation first hand -as an illegal immigrant!- but truthfully its all presented in such a laid back manner that one never gets terribly worked up or feels any particular suspense.

The big showdown at the end of the film between Bronson’s Deputy and Harris’ smuggler seems out of place in this film, as if a decision was made to give us an action climax, but it simply isn’t all that exciting, either.

Perhaps in its time, the film played out far better, but when viewed some forty plus years later, it feels like a sedate TV movie.

While not awful, its difficult to recommend Borderline to anyone but fellow Bronson fans like me.