THE BORDERLAND (2012)
aka Covert Operation
Written and directed by Mathieu Weschler
When a secret service agent goes missing, mercenary Gabriel is sent on a search and rescue mission to the Chinese border between North Korea. Investigating an abandoned worksite, Gabriel is captured and now must escape with his life as well as rescue others if he is to return to his native country, France.
Independent action thriller THE BORDERLAND is a stylish, ass-kicking flick that is a hoot to watch. Shot in Hong Kong, the film has a dark yet orange and neon tone to it and feels very much like the world in which videogame Deus Ex: The Fall is set in, which instantly peaked my interest. The movie is gritty but also includes a spot of humour which raises a smile now and then. At its core though, this is an action thriller and it delivers with a plot involving a missing secret service agent, missing Chinese women and North-Koreans.
The film isn’t without its faults though. The performances and script are a bit wooden at times, but that goes for all the characters within the movie. However, this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film itself. Casting French Karate champion Seydina Balde in the lead role as Gabriel was an excellent decision, as he skillfully picks off his opponents in artistic, effortless fashion. He’s certainly made for the screen and I look forward to more movies starring him and showcasing his high spinning kicks.
The choice of locations for THE BORDERLAND are perfect for Gabriel to fight his way out of. The maze-like building where he ends up provides an enclosed, claustrophobic prison for him to navigate and escape with enemies around each and every corner, setting up the scene for a range of combat scenarios. Though this is no The Raid or Warrior King, it certainly brings something to the table and with such a low budget to contend with, writer and director Mathieu Weschler has done himself and his team proud.
The DVD cover of this title is a bit misleading, as there is no armed white soldier and all the combat in the movie is very low key unlike a war zone. After all, Gabriel is sent on a solo search and rescue mission. Whilst a few guns and knives are used in the movie, there’s lots of glorious hand-to-hand combat scenes for martial arts action fans, most of which are actually shown and not quickly edited like its Hollywood counterparts.
If testosterone-fuelled, high-kicking action thrillers are your thing, THE BORDERLAND is worth checking out. Perfect for a night in with a few beers, THE BORDERLAND isn’t afraid of stomping down a few doors or shedding some blood, even if its lacking the weight and strength of bigger budget efforts.