If you’re a fan of torture porn, Xavier Gens’s “Frontier(s)” will represent a new high for you. Otherwise, this nasty, brutish but—pace Thomas Hobbes—insufficiently short gorefest will instead represent the absolute nadir.
Set during Parisian race riots that follow the election of a right-wing government, the plot concerns a gang from the slums who use the unrest to pull a heist. Four of them—not altogether, but two-by-two—escape to a rural inn along the way to the border which, as it turns out, is run by a bunch of neo-Nazi thugs with a penchant for the old slice-and-dice routine. What follows could, I suppose, be thought of as a sort of “Lorraine Chain Saw Massacre,” with all that entails in terms of entrails.
A couple of things set “Frontier(s)” apart. One is the racial subtext, with Moslem victims and old-fashioned racist torturers. Because of this, some may be inclined to take the picture as a commentary on the most extreme form of rightist anti-immigrant hatred, or—since cannibalism and the use of nubile young female captives as breeding machines is involved—on how the powerful always feed off the helpless (“Re-Animator” director Stuart Gordon once made a much tamer piece along similar lines called “Society”). But that would be an exceeding charitable interpretation of what’s actually nothing more than an exercise in sadism.
The other notable aspect of the movie is that it’s very slick visually, with careful compositions and color schemes, glossy cinematography that makes expert use of everything from smooth tracking shots to jittery hand-held footage, deft editing and effects that are all too realistic. But somehow that makes it all the more repulsive. And the acting is frankly quite dreadful, about on the level of what you’re likely to encounter in the made-for-TV exploitation flicks regularly shown on the Sci-Fi Network.
“Frontier(s)” obviously served as a useful calling card for director Gens, who went on to oversee the dreadful, but bigger-budgeted, action bomb “Hitman,” with Timothy Olyphant. But like “Hostel,” it’s a movie only the most bloodthirsty patrons will want to check into.