Despite Jack Nicholson’s multi-leveled performance, The Border is a surprisingly uninvolving film. Story of the personal and professional pressures on border patrol guard Nicholson, caught between right and wrong on both fronts, becomes murky and disjointed under Tony Richardson’s uninspired direction.
Nicholson etches a nice guy victimized by his surroundings instead of an eccentric. Living in depressed circumstances with whiney, materialistic wife Valerie Perrine, he is the quintessential poor working stiff.
Nicholson is then befriended by Harvey Keitel, husband of Perrine’s bimbo girlfriend and a fellow guard. It is their job to make sure none of the Mexicans over the border get into the US a task to which the humane Nicholson is ill-suited.
This is particularly the case once Nicholson views the rampant corruption of his fellow workers. The situation escalates as the baby of a poor, beautiful Mexican girl is kidnapped for adoption and Nicholson has to decide whether to stand by or take action.
The picture was already in the can when Universal decided to go back and shoot a much more upbeat ending where Nicholson emerges as hero.