The Border (1982 film)

The Border

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Richardson
Produced by Edgar Bronfman, Jr.
Written by Deric Washburn
Walon Green
David Freeman
Starring Jack Nicholson
Harvey Keitel
Valerie Perrine
Warren Oates
Music by Ry Cooder
Cinematography Ric Waite
Edited by Robert K. Lambert
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • January 31, 1982 (1982-01-31)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22 million[1]
Box office $6,118,683 (US)[2]

The Border is a 1982 American drama film directed by Tony Richardson and starring Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel, Valerie Perrine and Warren Oates.


La Recolección Ruins in Antigua Guatemala, where the initial earthquake aftermath scenes were filmed.

Immigration enforcement agent Smith (Jack Nicholson) lives in California with his wife (Valerie Perrine) in a trailer. She persuades him to move to a duplex in El Paso shared by her friend and border agent Cat (Harvey Keitel). She opens a charge account and starts to purchase expensive items like a water bed as she tries to build a dream home.

Cat gradually introduces Smith to the human smuggling operation he runs with their supervisor Red (Warren Oates). Though Smith initially declines to participate, his wife's free-spending ways make him finally take part in the operation. Meanwhile, a young Mexican mother that he has observed is detained, and while she is in their custody, one of Cat's drivers abducts her baby for an illegal adoption. Cat warns the driver not to do anything but transport people in trucks, and that if he runs drugs or babies, Cat will hurt him.

Smith finally realizes that Cat and Red are killing drivers who make money off side ventures or anyone who gets in their way. Smith makes it clear to Cat that he will not be a party to murder. In the film's climax, he is forced to kill Cat. He tracks down the kidnapped infant and returns it to its mother.


Production notes

The opening earthquake scenes were filmed in Antigua -specifically in La Recoleccion ruins[3]- and Guatemala City, Guatemala.


Vincent Canby of the New York Times said the movie "has the sort of predictable outrage and shape of a made-for-television movie. It has suspense but little excitement. Once the people and the situation have been introduced, there's not a single surprise in the film, nothing of the uncharacteristic sort that differentiates the adequate melodrama from one that is special and memorable. Like so many films prompted by real-life social problems, The Border is a movie in which the characters appear to have been created to fit the events. Missing is any sense of particularity, as well as the excitement that comes when the members of the audience are allowed to discover some sort of truth for themselves." [4]


  1. "The Border (1982) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  2. "The Border (1982)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  3. "The Border (introduction)". YouTube. 1982. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  4. Vincent Canby, "Jack Nicholson in 'The Border'" Jan. 29, 1982
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