After an eighteen-year hiatus, Jesse Harris makes a return to feature directing in Saban films Borrego. Lucy Hale stars as Elly, a young botanist on a research mission who is clearly a loner. While in the desert, Lucy meets Alex (Olivia Trujillo) who is more than happy to help. As night falls, Elly’s trip begins to go awry. After witnessing a drug mule's plane crash in the Borrego desert, she becomes the prisoner of Tomas (Leynar Gomez). Elly finds herself forced on a dangerous journey to a remote drop-off point at the Salton Sea.
In the meantime, Alex's dad, Sheriff Jose (Nicholas Gonzalez), has become aware of something major happening in the area following the wreckage and follows clues to it. In addition, a cartel middleman named Guillermo (Jorge A. Jimenez) has joined the hunt for Tomas. Jimenez is in serious danger if the contents of the destroyed plane are not found.In the desert with her captor, Elly risks her life in an attempt to escape before the journey turns deadly due to a lack of essentials and desperation for survival.
Jesse Harris also serves as the writer of Borrego. From the onset, it is clear that he wants a pair of films to compete for attention. The first competing for our attention is about painkillers and the harsh world of pharmaceutical drugs, where addiction leads to one’s ruin. In the second film, a botched drug flight attempt over the Mexican border results in violent events, involving confused people.
Fresh off the enjoyable romantic comedy The Hating Game, Lucy Hale taps into a different genre. I did not become hip to Hale until a brief appearance in the opening of Scream 4 and even though brief, I knew then she had a natural screen presence. Playing women under extreme stress is one of Lucy Hale’s forte. Sadly, the script does not fully tap into her strengths.
Hale does have some good scenes with Leynar Gomez’s Tomas and perhaps that is the route the film should have kept. We could eliminate the entire side plot involving the characters of Alex, Sheriff Jose, and Tomas and you would still have the same film. Awareness about addiction overdoes and the illegal drug trade is still a fresh topic. With Harris' expertise, a documentary on the three should be the director’s next venture.
I keep waiting for Hale to have that breakout mainstream role she deserves, but Borrego is not the one to do that. Nevertheless, I will mildly recommend to her fans.
Final Grade: C-
Borrego opens In Theaters, on Digital and On Demand January 14, 2022