Border, The (1982): Tony Richardson Directs Jack Nicholson in Socially Relevant Tale

Surprisingly, The Border, an atypical movie of director Tony Richardson (Oscar winner for the 1963 “Tom Jones”), is one of his best features in his post-British career.

Initially, he might seem as a curious choice to direct a contemporary Western, dealing with a uniquely American problem.  At the time, most critics claimed that Richardson had stepped into the specialized territory of Sam Peckinpah, who no doubt would have been a more suitable director (Peckinpah died in 1975 at age 59)

The tale is co-scripted by David Freeman, Walon Green, and Deric Washburn. Jack Nicholson, also in an uncharacteristic role, stars as Charly, an El Paso border guard, unhappily married to an avaricious wife named Marcy (Valerie Perrine, well cast).

Hoping to stifle her nagging about money matters, he begins accepting payoffs to allow Mexican aliens to cross the border without interference.

This leads to a relationship with a young Mexican mother Elpidia Carillo.

Tough actors Harvey Keitel and Warren Oates render strong performances in a poignant and intelligent tale whose theme has become even more relevant over the years,

Despite warm critical support, The Border was a commercial failure, perhaps due to its realistically downbeat mood.

Ry Cooder’’s score contributes greatly to the atmosphere.