R | 1h 34min | Drama, Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle
*In theaters October 14th 2016 *
Synopsis: A group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States encounter a man who has taken border patrol duties into his own racist hands.
Review: I have seen at least one other film this year that is very similar to the new thriller, DESIERTO. So similar in fact that I wondered if this was a remake. Desierto stands out in the area of acting and cinematography so although not an original story it at least offers something.
When a border crossing takes an unscheduled detour a small band of illegals find themselves in a cat and mouse game of survival. Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has serious issues with people being on his land. He has no faith in the border patrol and inflicts his own version of sadistic justice.
Morgan plays the racist land owner with a scary calm that isn't twisted or demented; a fact that makes him even scarier. This guy could be sitting down at your holiday meals with you and the family. Granted he is the relative everyone steers clear of or talks candidly about after he leaves. But he is just a man with deep rooted opinions about how things should be.
On the other side of the metaphorical fence you have Moises (played brilliantly by Gael García Bernal). He is the one with the level head and a heart for what is right. His interaction with those around him is sincere and compassionate. You are endeared to him from the beginning and Bernal is able to lock you in to his character.
Writer/director Jonás Cuarón does a solid job of keeping politics out of his story and seems focused on creating a top notch thriller. Not sure he succeeds but he did try. The issue is more the writing than the directing. The film looks stunning and the intensity is heightened by the framing and shots. But the writing is so thin that you get all bone and no meat. You are introduced to some solid characters and can't wait to peel back layers and know them more. But you never do. All you get is one intense moment after another with nothing to hold it all together. Yes you still want the innocents to survive but you quickly forget why.
This is a film that is hard to promote. The look and sound beg to be seen on the big screen but the overall film is not really worth the box office ticket price. It would be a great renter and probably enjoyed more. If all you want are visuals and a few moments of intensity then go for broke and do the big screen. But don't say I didn't warn you.
DESIERTO is rated R for strong violence and language. It is a vicious adult film and not for the kiddos or the nervous lot. Kudos to both Morgan and Bernal for keeping up their end of the bargain. They each earned their pay on this one. Sadly the writing let them and the audience as a whole down. I give it 2 out of 5 water bowls. I wanted the entire movie to be as good as the first 15 minutes.