Movie Number 7
TitleAcross the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright (2010)
Running Time– 95 minutes (“Not Rated”)
Director– R. Ellis Frazier
Writer– R. Ellis Frazier
Starring– Aidan Quinn, Andy Garcia, Mario Van Peebles, Luke Goss, & Danny Pino

(Originally an IP Movies review)

Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright is a surprisingly effective film. On the back of the DVD box, though, it is labeled as an “action” movie. Anyone heading in to this film expecting car chases, explosions, and non-stop gun battles will be severely disappointed, as Across the Line is more akin to a character study than an action film.

Taking an inspiration from Bernie Madoff, Across the Line tells the story of Los Angeles financier Charlie Wright (Aidan Quinn – Legends of the Fall, The Mission), the businessman who has scammed his way to $11 Billion. As should be expected, Charlie’s made some enemies along the way. FBI Agent Hobbs (Mario Van Peebles – Baadasssss!, Ali) works undercover to catch Charlie, but because he is forced to wait for a warrant, Charlie escapes, and flees the country. In Tijuana, Mexico, Charlie pops back up, but now the FBI isn’t the only group searching for him: a Mexican gangster (Andy Garcia – The Godfather: Part III, Ocean’s Twelve), and a group of hired guns – lead by the mercenary Damon (Luke Goss – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Death Race 2) – also seek Wright’s head. As Charlie searches for an old friend in Tijuana, the three separate groups will be forced to fight each other to get their prize: Charlie Wright.

Across the Line is not an action movie, regardless of what the marketing tells us. This story is much deeper than that, and writer/director R. Ellis Frazier has weaved together a delicate tale that teeters the bar between a work of genius and a flop. At the end of the night, instead of falling fully to one side of the bar or the other, Across the Line finds moments of subtle genius, but starts punching itself out toward the end thanks to a weak climax.

There are cinematographic moments in Across the Line that look stunning. The pictures created by R. Ellis Frazier are effective and understated. There is a time-lapse shot in the film that perfectly exemplifies Frazier’s style throughout Across the Line: a camera is set over the city of Tijuana (it was obviously shot on-location), catching hours of what’s happening below. Instead of filming a highway or main road like we usually see with shots of this variety, Frazier films mostly buildings. In between two of the buildings, though, there is a small shot of a road. In this small sliver, the audience can see hundreds of cars driving past, giving this time-lapse effect. This is a short, unimportant scene that merely shows the passing of time, but is a great example of the type of filmmaker that Frazier is: subtle, smart, and simple.

This “subtle, smart, and simple” mantra bleeds over to the acting side of the film as well. There isn’t one actor who stands out as unpolished, and though the characters are not as deep as I would have liked, it is clear that the actors understand the characters they are playing on a personal level. Aidan Quinn plays the shell of a man that is Charlie Wright; Wright faces personal demons, as well as the men who hunt him, with an admirable self-awareness. Quinn never pushes or forces anything, but is wrought with emotion that the audience can connect with. Andy Garcia and Danny Pino, playing brothers, have two of the most interesting characters in the movie, and make for an excellent subplot with a good payoff (which is missing from the main character’s story). Both actors are excellent, showing the compassionate side to gangster life. The same can be said for Mario Van Peebles as the FBI Agent Hobbs; his character is the least complete, and most inexplicable of the main roles, but Peebles is able to deliver a believable performance. I found myself rooting against Hobbs throughout the film, but this, I imagine, is Frazier’s intention. One of the most strangely moving characters in the film is Mary, played by Claudia Ferri. Mary shows a different, unexpected kind of addiction: an obsession with anti-wrinkle eye cream. This addiction is critical to the character of Mary, and Ferri does a beautiful job, gaining my sympathy just minutes after being introduced.

Further setting Across the Line apart from the standard actioner, Frazier manages to make death a human, and unsettling experience. Across the Line has so much going for it leading into the climax of the film that it is a major disappointment when Frazier is unable to deliver with the final knockout. Instead, the movie fizzles to an end, and the slow pacing starts to wear on the viewer. Though Across the Line could have benefitted from a couple revisions to the script, Frazier has caught my attention, and there are moments in the film that have me excited to see where the young, talented filmmaker goes next.

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