Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.


Week Seventy Five: Hell on the Border

Compared to other new westerns, this one rates as tolerable. A couple of my filmmaking acquaintances worked on the movie and that’s the main reason I watched it, plus a pinch of curiosity about their treatment of the Bass Reeves story.

Some solid scenes are ultimately mishandled and ruined by a cheesy score. Other scenes are undercut by bad acting and obvious dialog. Once again, the trait of modern Westerns I dislike most is the lack of subtext. That certainly applies here as every line of dialog can be read on a surface level only.

So what’s good about the film? The actor they chose for Bass Reeves is actually a good fit and deserves some attention for his performance. But the film doesn’t support him. The inclusion of Perlman and Grillo didn’t do much for me. Sure they’re good but they’re on auto-pilot good.

I haven’t researched the Reeves story but according to some other reviews I’ve read, they embellished the hell out of this story, including appearances from other famous outlaws who would have never crossed paths with Reeves. All of that and much of Hell on the Border seems unnecessary when a simple, gritty character-led film would have succeeded.

Seen on Amazon Prime.