La Soga -- Film Review

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Unlikely to be embraced by Dominican Republic tourism agencies, "La Soga" is a violent thriller centering on a hit man with -- what else? -- a conscience. Or at least a motivation, as Luisito (screenwriter Manny Perez), whose nickname gives the film its title, is desperate to avenge the decades-ago murder of his butcher father by a ruthless drug dealer (Paul Calderon).

Having witnessed the butchering of many a pig in his youth, Luisito is now a vegetarian, a source of no small amusement to those with whom he comes into contact. (After seeing the film's slow-mo depiction of one such slaughter, more than a few audience members might be converted as well.)

He now makes his living as a government enforcer for Gen. Colon (Juan Fernandez), the head of the secret police, who exploits Luisito's tortured psyche for his own purposes. Together with his partner Tavo (Hemky Madera), Luisito pretty much serves as an all-purpose law-and-order figure, not only capturing criminals but also executing them.

When his childhood sweetheart, Jenny (Denise Quinones, a former Miss Universe), re-enters his life, he keeps his profession secret from the now-grown bombshell, but needless to say he can't keep up the ruse forever.

Filming in such Dominican towns as Santiago and Baitoa (with an occasional detour to New York's Washington Heights), director Josh Crook vividly conveys a sweaty atmosphere teeming with violence and the wholesale killing of humans and animals.

Although at times the film gets bogged down in psychological murkiness, the relentless pace and brooding charisma of its star overcomes its narrative deficiencies.

Opened: Friday, Aug. 13 (7-57 Releasing)
Production: P2 Films
Cast: Manny Perez, Denise Quinones, Juan Fernandez, Paul Calderon, Hemky Madera, Alfonso Rodriguez, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Margo Martindale
Director-editor: Josh Crook
Screenwriter: Manny Perez
Producers: Manny Perez, Josh Crook, Jeffrey Crook
Executive producers: Patrick Pope, Jose Miguel Bonetti, Henry Mu, Jesse Scolaro, Allen Bain, Michael Bassick, Patrick R. Morris, Kate White Morris, Robert G. Morris
Director of photography: Zeus Morand
Production designer: Jaime Whitlock
Costume designer: Slobodan Strinic
Music: Evan Wilson
No rating, 102 minutes
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