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Frontera (Blu-ray Review)

FronteraDoes everyone remember the Ed Harris-Eva Longoria-Michael Pena border crossing uber drama that took the box office by storm this past summer?  No?  Oh yeah, cuz it only opened in three theaters and expanded to a total of fourteen by the end of its run.  As a matter of fact, its theatrical run ended just a few weeks ago to be precise.  It only took just under $60,000 in its domestic run, but according to Wikipedia the film has wound up doing over $25 million globally.  That’s not too shabby for a little film like this boasting more character acts and no real star power.  The movie about border crossing, the controversies and the dangers of also marks the feature film debut of writer and director Michael Berry.

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Film 

Set along the tumultuous Arizona-Mexico border, Frontera follows Miguel, a hardworking father and devoted husband who crosses the border illegally and is wrongfully accused of murdering the wife of a former sheriff. Miguel’s pregnant wife lands in the hands of corrupt Mexican “Coyote” smugglers as she tries to help her husband, while the ex-lawman investigates his wife’s death and unearths evidence that could destroy one family’s future.

Frontera features a decent story with ideas that feel like they could benefit from being flushed out.  The story itself feels like something that lends itself better to television than it does a film.  As a matter of fact this film feels a lot like a television production and features the same sort of stakes.  Except, this film feels very much like the shorthand or Cliff’s Notes version of a much larger story.  The film does a solid job of latching you onto the characters, it just doesn’t have it in the runtime to let it really develop.

We get sort of three storylines about the difficulties of border jumping, all relating to each other and showing different sides of the agenda.  We have a husband and wife both separately crossing to different troubles and Ed Harris’ character who is affected by some falsely placed violence occurring around some teenager hi-jinx.  And man does it really make you want to slap a couple of dumbass entitled little shits. The film never really takes a stance either way, and ends up seemingly a kind neutral on the topic, but some of the brutality and hardships shown especially in the Eva Longoria arc makes it hard not to develop a sympathy for what some will go through to have a chance at making it into America.

The performances in the film are nice, sound and likely elevated by some of the leads in the film.  Looking at the box, they’ll want you to know that Eva Longoria is a tour de force in this movie.  And because I haven’t seen her in many challenging projects, this is by default the best I’ve ever seen her.  However, she’s not really eating into a lot of screentime and for a good chunk of the movie she’s in a corner with her head down.  Ed Harris is the consummate pro and really delivers a very Tommy Lee Jones-like performance.  I dunno what it is with him, but I’m always drawn to Michael Pena.  The man has a way of getting your sympathy and you always feel a genuine humanity in the guy.  He’s always someone I feel you want to root for no matter the character.

When it all came down to it, Frontera would have benefited from being a television miniseries or something in longer form.  Its got a solid story, but nothing that you really can’t find done quite well on TV already.  Its got some good characters, performances, ideas and themes but I really wanted to see them more fleshed out.  Some more detail and time spent with each segment of the film would have been great.  As is, its still a solid little drama about a small story in the big world of illegal immigration.  It’ll have you looking and think from both sides of the picture and sort of rooting for any outcome that results in a positive affair.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a pretty impressive transfer that features plenty of detail.  Its a crisp, sharp image that manages to fully display and articulate the desert.  Dust, dirt and the like all prove to be visible on automobiles and other surfaces.  Clothing features texture that looks as thought you could touch it.

Depth:  Depth is solid.  There are some good moments during the “shooting sequence”.  The interrogation sequence features a lot of layers.

Black Levels:  Black levels are deep and natural looking.  They provide plenty of good shading and there is minimal crushing.

Color Reproduction:  There’s a not a lot of pretty colors on the display as its mostly weathered down, sun beaten browns, yellows and the like.

Flesh Tones:  A little bit on the warm side and consistent.  Facial detail is high as wrinkles, pores, nicks and cuts are all very visible.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a solid track, proving above average but nothing particular amazing.  The mix features a solid balance of all the material effects, vocals and scoring.  This film is pretty much a straightforward drama, so its not one that’s going to blast off into your living room to begin with.  It does well with the few challenges it does have to make.

Low Frequency Extension: Gunshots, engines, doors closing and hoofs clip clopping all feature a nice boost form the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Solid right-left interaction.  Nice, accurate volume placement.  The rear speakers are mainly ambiance and score.

Dialogue Reproduction: Clear and clean.

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Extras 

Frontera features no bonus material.

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Summary 

This is a solid film with a good presentation.  The fact that I have typed up this review is more of a bonus feature than anything on the disc because there are none.  With how this film is slightly above decent and this Blu-ray giving you not much else, then definitely this qualifies as pretty much a rental and nothing more.  If you do want to own the film, I’d wait til it drops to around the $6.99-8.99 range.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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