Frontera

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  • Drama
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Ed Harris is a performer made for Westerns, and he’s perfectly utilized in debuting director Michael Berry’s middling if still very watchable modern-day oater as Roy, a former lawman now living a calm retirement with his wife, Livy (Amy Madigan), on the Arizona-Mexico frontier. The film actually begins on the other side of the fence, as devoted Hispanic family man Miguel (Michael Peña) makes plans to unlawfully cross the border into the States so he can support his pregnant wife, Paulina (Eva Longoria). On his journey, he has a friendly encounter with Livy; she knows what’s up but sympathetically gives Miguel and his traveling companion some water and a home-knit blanket. But then some rich, SUV-driving teenagers with guns show up, and tragedy quickly strikes.

There’s a horrible sense early on that Berry (who cowrote the film with Louis Moulinet) is indulging in a Crash-like roundelay of coincidence, which mostly proves true—unjust imprisonment is only the beginning. But to his credit, Berry often takes the least melodramatic way through the narrative twists, resolving them before their silliness—and too on-the-nose timeliness—sours the proceedings. (Nothing, though, can redeem a side plot involving the comeuppance of a jingoistic sniper offing border crossers—fatuous wish fulfillment, through and through.)

It helps that the cast is uniformly excellent, underplaying almost every moment that threatens to become hammy. Harris is the bedrock. With his eyes as piercing blue as the Monument Valley sky, cheeks hollowed out like Grand Canyon crags and a deep-bass voice that makes every word echo with authority and empathy, you’re damn-near convinced he could bridge all of this country’s hot-button political divides on his lonesome.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

Release details

Rated: PG-13
Release date: Friday September 5 2014
Duration: 103 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Michael Berry
Screenwriter: Michael Berry, Louis Moulinet
Cast: Ed Harris
Michael Peña
Eva Longoria
Amy Madigan
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