A strong visual sense, intriguing tempo and effective economy of words combine to make "Hostile Border" an above-average crime thriller. Director/cinematographer Michael Dwyer and writer/co-director Kaitlin McLaughlin have crafted a tense, timely and absorbing look at the dark side of pursuing the American dream.
Claudia (Veronica Sixtos) is a Mexican-born, U.S.-raised immigrant in the country illegally who is arrested for credit card fraud. With few viable options, she travels south of the border to live with her estranged rancher father, Andrés (Julio César Cedillo), and grandmother Lita (María del Carmen Farías). It's no happy homecoming.
The stern and wary Andrés puts his sullen daughter to work, which leads Claudia to discover a covert business arrangement between ranch foreman Arturo (Jorge A. Jiménez) and slick foreign smuggler Ricky (Roberto Urbina). A lethal turn of events leads Claudia to start "assisting" the ruthless Ricky in return for cash and, she hopes, a trip back to the U.S. Romance ensues, but, like most things involving the tough-edged Claudia, it smacks of opportunism.
With a scenario this risky, things can't end well, but the narrative moves in enough credible, involving ways to avoid predictability. Although Sixtos compels as the unapologetic Claudia, her character would have benefited from a deeper emotional transformation.
In English and Spanish with English subtitles
MPAA rating: R, for some strong sexual content, nudity, violence and language
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD