'Camino': Fantastic Fest Review

Courtesy of Fantasic Fest

A lackluster cat-and-mouse game.

Zoe Bell tries to escape a homicidal guerrilla leader in the jungle.

A photojournalist is stalked by the subject she's shooting in Camino, a survival pic in which Hawaiian locations stand in for mid-1980s Colombia. Stuntwoman Zoe Bell toplines again in what may be the least effective featured use of her physical skills to date, a film that took two days to write and, if it doesn't quite take two days to watch, is certainly not the taut viewing experience it hopes to be. Commercial prospects are slim despite the genre cred brought by director Josh C. Waller (Raze), his links to the SpectreVision production team and Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo in an acting role opposite Bell.

Vigalondo plays Guillermo, a Spaniard who has come to Colombia to lead a band of revolutionaries who call themselves "missionaries." The charismatic guerrilla is the latest subject for celebrated photographer Avery (Bell), who tags along with his five-person team in the jungle, watching them bring meds to the poor. But then she accidentally spies on Guillermo away from his followers, watching as he conducts a cocaine deal and murders a child witness. Realizing he has been seen, Guillermo tells his troops that Avery is a threat to locals, and insists they set out to kill her. Avery takes refuge in the thick of a forest that is much less familiar to her than to her pursuers.

In the days before this assignment, we watched Avery have a drunken encounter with her estranged husband. In a choice that plays poorly on aesthetic terms and is questionable story-wise, the filmmakers make that husband a source of strength to her now, with Avery imagining his disembodied voice encouraging her to survive. "This isn't the time to give up," he tells her, needlessly, and so she keeps fighting Guillermo's soldiers one by one — with more hand-to-hand savvy than one expects from a photographer but less assurance than moviegoers want in a stuntperson-turned-lead actor.

Avery's trials, often played out at dusk or in dense foliage, look monotonous in Noah Greenberg's low-light lensing, and the narrative stringing them together is only partly enlivened by subplots in which some of Guillermo's followers begin to doubt his motives. Vigalondo does what he can to wring trainwreck psychological appeal from his character's diminishing grip on authority, but Daniel Noah's script, with its thinly conceived motivational talk of a spiritual "spiral," doesn't give him much to work with. The character's eventual comeuppance plays like wish fulfillment that comes dangerously close to trivializing the trauma the world's real Guillermos have caused for decades in Latin America.

Production company: Bleiberg Entertainment

Cast: Zoe Bell, Nacho Vigalondo, Francisco Barreiro, Sheila Vand, Tenouch Huerta, Dominic Rains, Nancy Gomez, Jason Canela, Kevin Pollak

Director: Josh C. Waller

Screenwriter: Daniel Noah

Producers: Ehud Bleiberg, Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller

Executive producers: Zoe Bell, Nicholas Donnermeyer, Barry Gordon, Nacho Vigalondo

Director of photography: Noah Greenberg

Editor: Brett W. Bachman

Music: Pepijn Caudron


No rating, 103 minutes