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Wes Miller
David Gyasi, Ron Perlman, Frank Grillo
Writing Credits:
Wes Miller

After shooting 5 men to save a judge and then going into Indian Territory after a lethal outlaw, Bass Reeves becomes the first black deputy marshal west of Mississippi.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 2/11/2020

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Wes Miller and Camera Operator Ronald Bourdeau
• Trailer
• Previews


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Hell On the Border [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 9, 2020)

With 2019ís Hell on the Border, we get a Western based on a true story. The film takes us back to the era after the Civil War.

A former slave, Bass Reeves (David Gyasi) winds up in Arkansas. There he seeks a job in law enforcement.

To earn his star as a marshal, Reeves needs to find and capture Bob Dozier (Frank Grillo), a notorious outlaw. Reeves pursues this goal and deals with many challenges along the way, some of which relate to his race.

On the positive side, Border comes with a fairly capable cast. In addition to Grillo, Ron Perlman adds some star power, and Gyasi delivers a reasonably stolid performance as our heroic lead.

Thus ends the laudatory portion of this review. Other than the core subject matter and some of the acting, Border turns into a pretty terrible movie.

Note that I gave credit to the basic topic at hand, as I think a serious film about Reevesí life could deliver something worthwhile. Unfortunately, Border decides to treat Reeves as a cartoon hero more than a real person, and that becomes a major drawback.

Those involved with Border clearly viewed it as the initial salvo in a series of adventure films. After all, the credits come with the subtitle The Chronicle of Bass Reeves Pt. 1, so obviously they envisioned more tales with the marshal as the base.

This trivializes the subject matter. As noted, a good dramatic version of Reevesí life could offer a compelling, inspirational tale, but instead, we get a half-baked adventure that flops in most possible ways.

Mainly, Border suffers from poor filmmaking and a general sense of incoherence. For a story about the pursuit of an outlaw, the narrative seems oddly sluggish and without intensity. Rather than dig into the thrills, we find a strangely lackadaisical approach.

Except for the music, which goes big from start to finish. In an attempt to goose the audience, the score feels insistent and overly dramatic, factors that make it a persistent nuisance. Even during quiet character scenes, we find heroic themes that donít fit.

Despite the storyís inherent simplicity, Border tells it in a muddled manner that robs it of potential positives. Hopefully the ghost of Bass Reeves haunts those behind this badly flawed Western.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Hell on the Border appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a decent but erratic presentation.

Sharpness became the weakest factor. While the image usually looked concise, more than a few perplexing instances of softness materialized, and those caused distractions.

No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.

Colors went with an arid amber feel to suit the Western motif, though we got some teal-influenced blues as well. These didnít shine but they seemed more than adequate.

Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows offered reasonable clarity. Outside of the sporadic softness, this became a positive presentation.

As for the filmís DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it seemed serviceable. Speech could feel oddly detached and distant at times, but the lines usually appeared fairly natural, and they lacked edginess or issues with intelligibility.

Music felt bright and lively, while effects came across as accurate. The mix came with mostly good range and depth.

The soundscape opened up matters in a moderate manner, but it didnít really impress. The five channels broadened the material in a fairly engaging manner, though not one that appeared especially active.

Still, the track used the speakers in a mostly positive way. Overall, this was a satisfactory mix.

Only one significant extra appears here: an audio commentary from writer/director Wes Miller and camera operator Ronald Bourdeau. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the projectís origins and historical elements, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, stunts and action, photography, effects and related domains.

Donít expect much from Bourdeau, as he barely speaks during that chat. This leaves the heavy-lifting on Miller, and he brings some good thoughts about the film.

Occasionally. Unfortunately, Miller goes AWOL too often, so we find a lot of dead air here. This becomes a mediocre track at best.

The disc opens with ads for Gone Are the Days, Escape Plan: The Extractors, 10 Minutes Gone and The Tracker. We also find a trailer for Border.

Hackneyed and poorly-told, Hell on the Border doesnít work. The movie disrespects its historical source and becomes a lousy stab at a Western. The Blu-ray brings decent picture and audio along with a blah commentary. Given the appeal of its subject matter, Border turns into a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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