J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Camino: Zoe Bell vs. Nacho Vigalondo

Anyone with an ounce of common sense will immediately suspect a leftist guerrilla who calls his well-armed comrades “missionaries” and refers to himself in the third person must be seriously bad news. However, as a card-carrying member of the media, war photographer Avery Taggert will have to find out the hard way. The hard way will be especially hard in Josh C. Waller’s Camino (trailer here), which opens this Friday in select theaters.

Taggert seems to have a Hemingway complex. She drinks hard, spars with her editor, and takes every dangerous assignment that comes down the line. Guillermo is the latest. The Spanish-born socialist revolutionary is far savvier than most of his ilk when it comes to the press. He is only too happy to have Taggert tag along with his rag-tag troupe, to snap pictures of them delivering medicine to poor villagers. However, things get a little complicated when Taggert also captures a candid shot of Guillermo strangling the young boy who witnessed his cocaine deal with some of the government’s black ops soldiers.

Shifting into damage control mode, Guillermo tries to pin the murder and the drugs on Taggert. His more fanatical and psychotic followers are only too willing to kill the photo-journalist on his say-so, but the more conscientious “missionaries” have their doubts. Pretty soon both Taggert and the increasingly unhinged Guillermo are offing missionaries in a double-sided game of cat-and-mouse.

With a cast that includes stuntwoman turned thesp Zoë Bell, Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’s Sheila Vand, Camino comes fully loaded with cult movie credibility. Waller and screenwriter Daniel Noah’s jaundiced portrayal of Guillermo probably will not win the film a lot of critical favors, but it certainly reflects the reality of Latin America in the 1980s. Frankly, the film comes perilously close to running off the rails with a head-scratching climax, but Vigalondo essentially saves it with one of the best line deliveries of the year. It still doesn’t make much sense, but we’re with it anyway.

As Taggert, Bell exhibits a quiet forcefulness and legit star power. Clearly, she can anchor an action movie, if anyone besides Waller will give her the opportunity. Vigalondo similarly delivers the villainous goods, chewing on the jungle scenery like its salt water taffy. Although Marianna, the true-believing, Guillermo-loving revolutionary does not require a lot of nuance, it further establishes Vand’s range, following her knock-out work in Girl Walks. Kevin Pollak also does his thing, occasionally walking-on to get a few laughs as Taggert’s sarcastic editor.

Despite a bit of mystical mumbo-jumbo, Camino has all kinds of grit and attitude. It definitely lives up to the exploitation tradition of jungle action, which is high praise. Enthusiastically recommended, Camino opens this Friday (3/4) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.

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