Hostile Border (R)

Drama 88 min. April 15, 2016
By Michael Nordine
Formerly known by the stronger (but less gringo-friendly) name of Pocha, a slang term for Mexican-Americans who don't speak Spanish, Hostile Border lives up to both of its titles. Claudia (Veronica Sixtos), an undocumented immigrant who's spent almost her entire life in America, is the non-Hispanophone in question; that poses something of a problem when the 20-something is deported to Mexico for credit card fraud and forced to choose between living on her father's ranch and attempting to re-enter her adoptive country. Casually striking and often handheld, co-director Michael Dwyer's cinematography makes Claudia's sun-drenched home-away-from-home look so postcard-pretty that you may have trouble believing her eagerness to leave — at least until the local mob boss shows up and abducts one of her dad's employees. Sixtos' performance lends her double-outsider character a refreshingly unaffected air that never devolves into message-movie saccharinity; wisely, she plays Claudia as a bit standoffish and unaware of how in-over-her-head she is.

What follows is like No Country for Old Men from the perspective of Anton Chigurh's collateral damage, those unlucky souls who get mixed up in nasty business simply by virtue of where their parents and grandparents chose to lay down their roots. Co-directors Dwyer and Kaitlin McLaughlin prove more adept at the first act's low-key character building than the action-movie showdowns they're building toward, but Claudia's use of a makeshift flamethrower late in the game is an unexpected joy.
Michael Dwyer, Kaitlin McLaughlin Veronica Sixtos, Roberto Urbina, Julio Cedillo, Jorge A. Jiménez, Jesse Garcia, María Del Carmen Farías Kaitlin McLaughlin Samuel Goldwyn Films

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