Loren Adrian (Jennifer Lopez) is a hotshot reporter at the Chicago Sentinel whose editor, George Morgan (Martin Sheen), sends her to Juarez to get the scoop on the unsolved murders. Her former partner and lover, Diaz Alfonso (Antonio Banderas), runs the local paper in Juarez and spends his days blasting the local authorities for the continuous cover-up of the murders. When a local girl, Eva Jimenez (Maya Zapata), is viciously raped and strangled on her way home from work, then literally climbs from her own grave and seeks help from Diaz's paper in catching her attackers, Diaz and Loren team up to protect Eva and discover the truth.
Although the authorities try to keep things under wraps, it seems that there are several murderers operating in the Juarez area, preying on young women and killing them in various ways. Eva describes two attackers, one her bus driver and the other, a man she calls El Diablo, as she literally believes her rapist was the devil. Loren and Diaz enlist the assistance of Teresa Casillas (Sonia Braga), the head of a local women's organization. While Eva recuperates at Teresa's large estate, she and Loren attend a party with Teresa that is being held for the daughter of a very wealthy local businessman. Many well known American businessmen and politicians are at the party, along with one of Eva's attackers, who recognizes her. Soon, Loren begins to put together the pieces of the puzzle and realizes that it's quite possible that these killers are being protected because of their wealth, prestige and value to the economy.
Loren decides that the only way to get to the truth is for her to pose as one of the workers in the maquiladoras in the hopes of setting up Eva's two attackers. Although the plan goes awry, the bus driver is caught by the police and somewhat injured during his scuffle with Loren. She also discovers a mass grave in the process. But this still leaves Eva's second attacker on the loose.
There are many tense moments, whether it be Loren and Diaz running for their lives as someone tries to run them down, or Eva spotting her attackers as they pursue her at Teresa's home. When Loren finally completes her incredible story, she comes to find out that it is being shelved by her editor due to political interference. She realizes she has to return to Chicago to insure that the story gets run, but the timing is bad as Eva is due to testify against the bus driver. All hell breaks loose when Eva runs away in fear of her second attacker, Loren returns to Juarez only to discover that an unknown assailant has struck out against Diaz, and Eva's second attacker determines to silence Loren once and for all.
Bordertown is not a happy movie, at all. But it tells an important story, one that apparently doesn't get much publicity. While the movie points fingers at NAFTA, politicians and big business, whose to say who is actually to blame for these murders. Hopefully, by exposing some of the ugliness that is going on along the borders of Mexico and the US, these companies will at least make some strides in providing more safety for their employees as they leave the factories.
Jennifer Lopez not only stars in Bordertown, but she also produced it, with Gregory Nava (Selena) heading up the film. I must admit, she was compelling in this movie. In the past, I haven't thought much of her acting skills, but she does a good job in her role, as do Martin Sheen, Antonio Banderas and Sonia Braga. Maya Zapata is incredibly intense as Eva, the young victim who survives her ideal and goes on to prosecute her attackers. Bordertown is well worth seeing and contains not only a making-of featurette, but also a short documentary in the words of an actual factory worker. While a good bit of the movie is subtitled, the film is excellent.