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Border Patrol (2000)

If it's possible to be formulaic in a story about the afterlife, this manages it: echoing all sorts of posthumous and near-death fantasies from the past and hammering the eschatology into a template for a TV cop pilot (it has an ending that seems to forestall further adventures, but we know better). Cal Numan (Clayton Rohner), in a hat and unostentatious zoot suit, is a cop with the Border Patrol, policing the barrier between life and death by pursuing ghosts who have returned to Earth without a license (!). Having briefly died on the operating table after a brush with a mad medico, regular Miami cop Chavez (Michael Delorenzo) can see Numan – we get the usual Topper business of people thinking he's crazy because he's talking to someone who isn't there, though mobile phones mean that this is no longer strange behaviour – and they have to partner to track down the recently-dead serial killer (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), a rare spook who can make himself solid enough to commit murder and frame the officer who gunned him down. By killing people who've had near-death experiences, the villain ups his power levels to unstoppable proportions, and the regular spirit guns of the BP don't affect him – but there's an untested prototype locked in the office of Numan's by-the-book superior.

By making a MiB-like connection between ghosts and illegal aliens, the film more or less has its afterlife mapped out as a slightly vintage cop environment, with long queues for karmic check-ins, haunted black and white bars for spooks to party on this side of the border, a classic car that can drive through traffic and buildings in a blur effect. Director Mark Haber uses ambitious effects for a TV movie: splitting the screen, unusual colour tints. But writer Miguel Tejada Flores trots out a familiar story structure and set of character arcs, and the cast are fair only.

First published in this form here.

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