— by Jeff Schultz

In our soon-to-be post-Trumpian land, illegal immigration may simmer down to a merely warm-button issue, especially since the faltering world economy appears to have stemmed the tide of those crossing the border from Mexico. But Trump’s supporters are legion, and American nativists were demonizing foreigners long before Donald launched his ugly campaign. So while this movie is essentially a thriller, its bogeyman villain — fueled by a hatred so pure, he even turns it on himself — reflects the phobic loathing that has brought us to our current sorry state. DESIERTO is basically one long chase that starts out with some 15 migrants trying to enter America, who quickly become pursued by one single-minded psycho (TV veteran Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with a high-powered rifle and a vicious dog. One by one, the migrants are picked off, until we’re left with only Gael Garcia Bernal and Alondra Hidalgo. The film, directed by Jonás Cuarón (son of GRAVITY’s Alfonso), is tight, even gripping, but also relentless and bleak, with little catharsis. “Tracker” the dog (who really should have gotten a credit) gets what’s coming to him, and it’s satisfying enough to let out a cheer. But Morgan’s end is kind of a fizzle, even though it makes perfect sense. I did, however, appreciate the very qualified ray of hope with which it all wraps up.

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