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“HELL ON THE BORDER” A Western Thriller

 

 

Review by John Delia

A pretty good indie, the exciting film Hell on the Border: The Chronicles of Bass Reeves has been released on Blu-ray, DVD, Ultra HD and Digital HD. Paced with excitement and drama it’s not an ordinary western, because with the fact that it’s based on the true story makes the slice of life more personal. Starring David Gyasi in the lead role, it’s a chance for him to shine and he does here. As a black man in the Wild West 1800’s the semi biography of Bass Reeves, who put his mark on America fighting the lawless, becomes an adventure to remember.

The story opens in Native Indian Territory 1875 and just ten years after the War Between the States. Former slave Bass Reeves (David Gyasi) has made his home in the small town on the edge of Fort Smith, Arkansas. With little law enforcement, Reeves feels his duty to protect the town even if it means just being a member of a posse. With only a few U.S. Marshals working for local Federal Judge Isaac Parker (Manu Intiraymi) we find that the area being covered is huge and hard to control with a small number of law enforcement.

Bass Reeves (David Gyasi) and Charlie Storm (Ron Perlman) join with Sam Sixkiller (Zahn McClarnon in HELL ON THE BORDER from Lionsgate

On this day we find U.S. Marshal Franks (Chris Mullinax) on horseback accompanied by volunteer Reeves walking behind. They have caught the notorious Charlie Storm (Ron Pearlman) who is on his horse stuck in the middle of a mud pit. After Reeves carries the wanted man out of the mud, they head back to town. That evening an altercation begins between the brother of one of the recently hung prisoners and the Federal Judge. Reeves comes to the rescue and takes down the 5 men with the brother escaping. When the brother returns to his boss Bob Dozier (Frank Grillo), who’s wanted Dead or Alive, all hell breaks loose. Storm, who gets promised a pardon and Reeves team up to take the murderer in to custody.

Director and writer Wes Miller spools out his film at a nice pace introducing his main characters, setting up their importance to the storyline and then letting his cast bring it all together in one violent scene after another. During his based on a true story movie we find out what brought Bass Reeves to the west, his family, and his desire to become a U.S. Marshal. What makes this film different than most westerns is how we see the characters as real people, the lawless attitude of the wanted men and the courage and persistence of a black man that believed he could make a difference in the growing West.

Nellie Reeves (Jaqueline Fleming) in HELL ON THE BORDER from Lionsgate

Leading the acting David Gyasi and Ron Pearlman make a great team. Their characters are complete opposites, but as they find themselves drawn together by a common bond, they find that each have flaws that can be fixed. I enjoyed Gyasi as the gun slinger who can fire his guns on attackers like Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti westerns. He’s quick in the draw and can take a beating in order to arrest or kill some of the most heinous men of the old west.

Pearlman plays Storm a smart gun slinger who agrees to go after Dozier so he can get pardoned for his crimes. He’s hesitant at first because of Dozier’s reputation of being a quick draw killer. But when things get real dicey for Reeves, he jumps into the fray. Pearlman provides a little comic relief and helps the film movie along helping to bring out the fire in his new pal Reeves.

Charlie Storm (Ron Pearlman) and US Marshal Franks (Chris Mullinax) appear before the Federal Judge in HELL ON THE BORDER from Lionsgate

While the film was fun to watch, the support actor’s delivery is weak and a bit amateurish. While this may be due to Wes Miller’s direction or a low budget, the actors involved are not carrying many important scenes. I will mention that in most western’s it’s the main leads that make it a winner and Guase, Pearlman, Fran Grillo as Dozier, and Jaqueline Fleming as Nellie Reeves do a terrific job.

SPECIAL FEATURE:

“Commentary with writer/director Wes Miller and Camera Operator Ronald Bourdeau”

Hell on the Border has been rated R by the MPAA for violence and language. The film also contains racial slurs used in the historical time period and some disturbing images
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FINAL ANALYSIS: A good shoot em up with a fascinating storyline. (3 out of 5 Stars)

Specifications and additional video information:
Cast:  David Gyasi, Ron Perlman, Frank Grillo, Jaqueline Fleming, Zahn McClarnon, Manu Intiraymi, Rudy Youngblood, and Ashley Atwood
Directed and Written by: Wes Miller
Genre: Adventure, Biography, Western
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language (also contains racial slurs and disturbing images)
Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Video Release Date: February 11, 2020
Original Theatrical Release Date: December 13, 2019
Language: English
Reviewed Format: Blu-ray
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Video: Widescreen 1080p HD 16×9 Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Distributed by: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Released on: Blu-ray, DVD, 4k Ultra HD, Digital HD

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