"On the Line" (Beverly Center Cineplex and the Los Feliz) is a sadly familiar instance of a distinguished European film maker losing his bearings in an English-language production. Made on a shoestring budget over four years, it is a meandering love story about an incredibly naive border patrol trainee (Jeff Delger) and a beautiful prostitute (Victoria Abril) working in a tawdry Nuevo Laredo compound.
As a depiction of the plight of illegal aliens, "On the Line" is nowhere near as convincing as "Alambrista!," "El Norte" or "Born in East L.A." As a romance, it's hopelessly trite. Had the film some shape and pace it might have squeaked by, but it is endlessly repetitive, which merely underlines the tiresome callowness of Delger's character and Abril's awkwardness in English. As Delger's uncle, a border patrolman turned coyote, David Carradine, who employs a welcome humorous cynicism, unfortunately disappears early in the picture, returning only briefly near its end. On the other hand, Scott Wilson, as a border patrolman obsessed with Abril, is on screen so much you begin to wonder if the picture is really supposed to be about him. The late Sam Jaffe appears briefly in a vaguely drawn cameo.
Authentic locales only make the film ring false. The stunning Abril will be more happily remembered in such notable Spanish films as the recent "Padre Nuestro," in which she played Francisco Rey's defiant granddaughter. "On the Line" (Times-rated Mature) was written (with Barbara P. Solomon) and directed by Jose Luis Borau, best known for "Poachers" ("Furtivos"), a bleak, often savagely funny allegory on Franco's Spain.