Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
River: The Fugitive in Laos
have to feel for the consular officers who will be forced to work on Dr. John
Lake’s case. The American doctor is wanted in Laos for the murder of an
Australian senator’s entitled son and the rape of a local. Unfortunately, a
one-armed man was not seen fleeing the scene of the crime. Lake more or less
dispatched the ugly Australian, but everything else was the dead man’s
handiwork. Due to the victim’s misunderstanding, Lake opts to make a desperate run
for the Thai border in Jamie M. Dagg’s River
which opens this Friday in New York.
was volunteering with a medical NGO, but his supervisor sent him off on two
weeks leave following the triage work they did for a truckload of accident
victims. He decides to visit the picturesque southern islands in the Mekong
River Delta, as do two hard-partying Australian lads. Lake tried to dissuade
them from plying the petite Nang Chanh with liquor, but he has no qualms about
partaking himself. Later drunkenly stumbling over the unconscious girl and her
predator, Lake sort of snaps. Rather inconveniently the girl comes to just in
time to misconstrue Lake’s blood stains.
taking flight is a very bad idea, especially sans passport and cash. However, it
is tough to blame him in Laos, a state still ruled by a Communist regime, where
trials are considered a formality and executions are an inevitability. In fact,
it makes you wonder why he is there is the first place. Regardless, Lake’s
crisis disperses any wishful thinking he might have had, which leads to full
fact, River should jolly well dissuade
most viewers from visiting Laos, just as Midnight
Express probably temporarily depressed Turkish tourism. Still, the humid delta
and surrounding rainforests are an evocative locale. Cinematographer Adam Marsden
makes gives the film an appropriately swelteringly noir look, while Dagg nicely
compounds the tension of being a fugitive in a foreign land.
Lake, Rossif Sutherland (terrific in Hyena Road and not bad in Helions) is
convincingly sweaty, but his performance largely confines itself to a narrow
zone of guilt and paranoia. At least the dependably cool Vithaya Pansringarm
offers some charismatic support as the friendly bartender who befriends Lake
that fateful night. It is a comparatively small supporting role, but Pansringarm
is apparently incapable of being dull on-screen.
things considered, River is quite
fair to the Laotians. In fact, Dagg really should have more fully explained why
standing trial in Laos for a crime you did not commit is such a perilous proposition.
It is also seems rather strange Lake and his NGO boss are Americans,
considering River is a Canadian
production, helmed by a Canadian filmmaker, featuring several Canadian cast-members
(Sutherland, as well as Sara Botsford, Ted Atherton, and Karen Glave—the latter
two playing U.S. Foreign Service Officers). Regardless, Dagg gives viewers a
pungent sense of the region and ends on a graceful note. Recommended as a
future video pick, River opens this
Friday (6/24) in New York, at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Canadian Cinema, Vithaya Pansringarm