Lauren, an impassioned American reporter for the Chicago Sentinel heads to Juarez, a Mexican bordertown, in order to investigate a series of mysterious slayings involving young factory women from all over Mexico. As she discovers hundreds of victims, she gains the trust of local factory workers but falls into danger. Written by
"It isn't free trade; it's slave trade; it's a ... scam", yells investigative reporter Lauren Adrian (Jennifer Lopez), to her newspaper boss George Morgan (Martin Sheen). They're arguing about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the villain in this film about the injustices of NAFTA border factories toward their women workers, and in particular about the border town of Juarez, on the Rio Grande, across from El Paso, Texas.
The script's characters and plot are fictional. But they are set against a backdrop of a real-life situation that has been going on for years. Poorly paid young Mexican women are raped and killed in these NAFTA border towns. Nobody really cares, least of all the cold corporations that employ the women.
In "Bordertown", George Morgan sends Lauren to Juarez to get a story. She does. But what she finds is that the real killers are more powerful and shadowy than she imagined. It's a situation not unlike what Karen Silkwood faced when she tried to investigate a nuclear plant.
The film is thus highly political. Its message overpowers the story. Most viewers will sympathize with the message. But what about the story? The characters are not entirely believable. For example, the young Mexican woman whom Lauren befriends can't seem to speak English when they first meet. And Lauren says she can't speak Spanish. Yet later, the young woman and Lauren chat up a storm both in English and Spanish, a dialogue necessity, no doubt, to placate viewers. The plot's climax is Hollywood sensationalized, which detracts from the authenticity of the message.
Color cinematography is very high contrast, which works well, given the good vs. evil theme. Prod design and costumes are quite realistic. The filming in Mexico gives credibility to the story, though filming entirely in Juarez was not possible owing to the physical danger. Acting is acceptable. Lopez does a fine job.
My impression is that "Bordertown" was not given a proper theatrical release here in the U.S. because of its tough political message, which speaks volumes, if true. But despite some imperfections in its script, the film deserves to be seen by viewers, and specifically because of that potent underlying message.
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