I think it’s fair to say that any big Movie Buff – or whatever they refer to themselves as – likes all genres of film. They’ll dance during a musical, cry for a rom-com, and even read subtitles for a foreign film. I, for one, consider myself in this category but if I had to pick one genre as my least favourite or the one I tend to avoid, it would definitely be Westerns. Now I will admit there are, of course, amazing exceptions but there’s something about the setting of Westerns that’s always turned me off. So naturally, I’m the perfect person to review Frontera.
Frontera is about a former Arizona Sheriff whose wife is killed on their property and he suspects a Mexican man who’s illegally crossed into the US did it. Although Westerns aren’t typically my thing, I do love a good murder mystery and everyone loves a good revenge plot. I’m intrigued enough by the story.
It’s got a pretty decent cast including Ed Harris as the lead. A quick side note on Ed Harris, be forewarned this comes with zero factual basis, but has he ever done an accent in a movie? I feel like he’s an American in every movie he’s in whether it takes place in the US or not. When he does show up in a movie set in another country, they always shoehorn in some quick explanation as to why he’s an American there. See The Way Back and Enemy at the Gates for examples. The film also has Aden Young in it who I’ve only seen in one other thing; but that one thing is the show Rectify which is really great. It’s on Netflix. Check it out.
Anyways, back to Frontera. It seems like a decent story, but it’s director Michael Berry’s first feature film and doesn’t seem like much is going to surprise me here. But I’ve been wrong before and I’d love to be wrong again here.
Suspected Rating: 5/10
Well first off, it’s not a murder mystery at all, but that’s ok. That’s the fun of going into a movie blind sometimes, you have no idea what you’re going to get. I expected an Agatha Christie type murder mystery with a Western shoot ’em up flair, but what I got was a pretty modern heart wrenching tale about families struggling to survive and the overall shitty coincidences of life.
I enjoyed the film mostly. It starts off a tad slow as we learn who the characters are and set up the course of events that follow the entire movie but by the end there were enough moving pieces to keep me intrigued. The actors were great, I’m beginning to like Michael Peña more and more every time I see him. He’s all over the place with his roles, from something sad and serious like Frontera to his sillier roles in movies like 30 Minutes or Less.
I did have a few gripes with the film. I feel like the film loves to rain shit on the characters just to manipulate the audience into feeling bad. When Miquel, played by Michael Peña, gets into trouble his wife tries to help him but comes nowhere near helping him and instead just gets herself into even more trouble. If they were trying to showcase how awful the lives of this Mexican family were, they definitely succeeded but it was bordering on becoming cheap.
I was worried by the ending the overall film would have too much pain and I would be sucked out of the story completely. I don’t need a happy Hollywood type ending where everyone drinks champagne and lives happily ever after but whether you’re showing violence, action, misery, or even happiness, it all works best when it serves the overall story and purpose of the film. I’m not stating Frontera did this, but it came close a few times.
I’d say it’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a decent drama. It didn’t do anything to surprise me, but it kept me interested enough that I enjoyed myself and it’s crazy to think these type of situations are based on real life occurrences. Plus, I liked how everything plays out.
Final Rating: 6/10
Read more of Anthony King’s ‘Going In and Coming Out’ reviews at ‘Reel Mess’