Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4 - On the Line (1984)

The cover of my VHS copy of On the Line

On the Line (1984)

Director: Jose Luis Borau
Format: VHS (CBS/Fox)

Don't be fooled by that cover - this US-Spanish-Australian production is more of a love story than an action movie. And David Carradine? He's in it for less than a third of the movie's 98-minute running time.

This rare English language outing for Spanish director Jose Luis Borau was filmed in Australia (doubling for the US-Mexican border). It has some moments of good action, but they are few and far between in a script that is essentially a Romeo & Juliet tale set in the grimy border town of Laredo.

Chuck (Jeff Delger, making his one and only movie appearance) and Jonathan (Paul Richardson) are a pair of young guys who head to the border town in search of a bit of excitement. They meet up with Chuck's uncle Bryant (the late David Carradine, KILL BILL), who makes his living as a coyote (people smuggler). They also meet Mitch (Scott Wilson, YOUNG GUNS 2), a border patrol cop, who likes to use his small plane to catch immigrants.

The young duo train to be border patrol officers but end up in a sticky situation when Jonathan unknowingly shoots at Bryant as he busts through a blockade, which gets Bryant arrested and an illegal immigrant killed in the process. Meanwhile, Chuck falls in love with a Mexican hooker named Engracia (gorgeous Spanish actress Victoria Abril) and soon learns that while his uncle is a lawbreaker, Mitch isn't much of a stand-up guy himself.

Chuck marries Engracia but Mitch - who lusts after the lovely lady himself - is out to stop them from ever finding happiness. Can they escape his clutches and live happily ever after or is this cross-border love affair forever doomed?

Once I realised the action flick the cover had promised me wasn't materialising, I enjoyed this movie for what it was - a tragic love story set amidst the interesting backdrop of the US-Mexican border. Life for those caught up in this daily cat and mouse game makes for fascinating plot fodder.

The acting is good. Carradine is his usual brooding self. Abril is beautiful and convincing as the hooker with a heart of gold and Delger starts off wide-eyed and gets stronger as the movie goes on (why did this guy not make any more movies?). The main couple do an adequate job of making us care about their plight. Wilson is the glue that keeps it all together, playing Mitch as flawed by not cartoonishly evil.

Look out for supporting roles by legendary character actor and former Hollywood blacklist victim Sam Jaffe (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) in his last movie role before his death at the age of 93, and X-FILES regular Mitch Peliggi as a border cop.

This movie is on DVD, but all the reviews I've read indicate the DVD is cut to shreds (including slicing out the few scenes of nudity). The VHS seems to be the way to go to see this as it was intended, although I'm not too sure how easy this one is to track down.

Previews on my VHS: Enemy Mine, The Right of the People, Recruits (oh boy, this Police Academy rip-off looks dreadful).

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