The Gatekeeper

Writer, producer, director and star John Carlos Frey's tough social drama has a slightly sensationalistic edge, but the disturbing fact is that all too much of his worthy film hews closely to the real-life experiences of undocumented immigrant workers. By day Adam Fields (Frey) is as a dedicated agent for the U.S. Border Patrol, monitoring the permeable...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Writer, producer, director and star John Carlos Frey's tough social drama has a slightly sensationalistic edge, but the disturbing fact is that all too much of his worthy film hews closely to the real-life experiences of undocumented immigrant workers. By day Adam Fields (Frey) is as a dedicated agent for the U.S. Border Patrol, monitoring the permeable boundary that separates San Diego from Tijuana. His nights, however, are spent in the company of Jack Green (J. Patrick MacGregor), leader of a rabid anti-immigrant group called the "National Patrol." The National Patrol's mission is to alert America to the threat posed by the flood of illegals who, they fear, rob native-born workers of much-needed jobs and bring disease and drugs in their wake. To help staunch this "Mexican invasion," Green and his redneck cronies have something special planned for the upcoming Fourth of July: Disguised as an indigent Mexican, Adam will make the illegal trek from Tijuana to California and record the entire trip with a tiny video camera. Once Adam crosses the border, Green will send the tape to the media, alerting unsuspecting Americans to what's happening in their own back yards. What Green doesn't realize that Adam is himself Mexican, a secret he's so far been able to hide behind his vicious, racist rants. In Tijuana, Adam easily plugs into the illegal pipeline that smuggles immigrants into California and holds them in virtual slavery until they work off the remainder of their fee. But once Adam and his group reach the border where Green and his redneck cohorts are waiting, their guides, sensing a trap, open fire. Adam and the other immigrants are then hustled into a van and carted off to a remote ranch where Adam is forced to cook up methamphetamine in a windowless lab. If he's lucky, he won't blow himself up before the noxious fumes eventually kill him, and the fact that no one knows where he is gives him plenty of time to learn the truth about the "wetbacks" he has so violently attacked in the past. The film's setup isn't far removed from such inflammatory exploitation fare as THE BLACK KLANSMAN (1966), but Frey's follow-through demonstrates a serious sense of purpose. And while his instincts as a director could use some sharpening, Frey's performance and script, brought to life by a solid supporting cast, are both uncommonly smart.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Writer, producer, director and star John Carlos Frey's tough social drama has a slightly sensationalistic edge, but the disturbing fact is that all too much of his worthy film hews closely to the real-life experiences of undocumented immigrant workers. By… (more)

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