Scorpion Spring

Director: Brian Cox
Screenwriters: Brian Cox

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Set in the remote Anza-Borrego desert along the California/Mexico border, Scorpion Spring is “equal parts neo-noir thriller, contemporary western and road movie” and focuses on social and political corruption—illegal immigration, drug trafficking, prostitution, and a crooked Border Patrol. Zac Cross (Patrick McGaw) and Denis Brabant (Alfred Molina) meet by accident at a last-chance gas station in the middle of the desert. Zac has been robbed of everything but his beat-up Olds convertible. Denis, a superficial and vaguely pathetic French actor with a drinking problem, has just been dumped by his girlfriend. They decide to pool their meager resources and head to LA.

On their way, they pick up two Mexican hitchhikers, Astor (Esai Morales) and his sister Nadia (Angel Aviles), who say they are looking for their brothers after a separation caused by a Border Patrol pursuit. As they drive, Zac and Denis realize that Astor’s selective translation is withholding the truth about their purpose and plans upon reaching their destination: a remote drop house on a dry lake bed at Scorpion Spring. Writer/director Brian Cox adeptly handles each character thread and masterfully weaves a sinister tapestry of ambition and deception against the backdrop of the “cocaine corridor.” The inexorable sea of corruption ebbs and flows even in this arid desert, and the hapless Zac and Denis are caught in its tide.

— Christian Gaines

Screening Details

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