Treasure of the Black Jaguar: Cannes Review

Well-made adventure set in Sergio Leone-type terrain and blasted with Robert Rodriguez-ish firepower.

Writer-director Mike Bruce send his characters on an entertaining modern-day quest for gold.

CANNES -- Take the words Black Jaguar out of the title and replace them with Sierra Madre, and you’ve got a good thematic notion of this modern-day quest for gold. A well-forged blend of Sergio Leone, Robert Rodriguez and classic B adventure movies, this Tricoast Worldwide pick-up should chart solid business across international borders.

In this modern-day/old-style adventure, two 20-ish California buddies (Cameron Van Hoy, Michael Drayer) set out on a quest for the quick buck, ditching their domineering mom and frantic girlfriend and heading south of the border.  

Down Mexico way, they quickly land in the caboose where they are befriended by Blake (Timothy Murphy), a diabolical and crusty fortune hunter who quickly breaks them out. Blake’s quest is old-world treasure, a gold religious sculpture from the Cortez days. Quite simply, he needs the two guys as pack mules and offers them their big chance. In movie-ese, the MacGuffin here is the $100 million-valued gold statue.

Starting in one of the most hallowed icons of all adventure treks, a whore house, the three amigos cut a deal on how to divvy up the treasure.

Essentially, Treasure of the Black Jaguar is a road movie through a most brutal and hostile environment, the Mexican desert. It’s laden with rattlers, lizards and gun-wielding varmints.  The 120-degree heat rages and trouble soon erupts. Their vehicle blows a crankcase, and, natch, there’s a deadly Asian mobster on their tail.

Thematically, it’s a delirious descent into a heart-of-darkness, where survival instincts and base greed trump basic goodness and civilized values.

Luminously scoped by cinematographer Salvador Lleo De La Fe and propelled by Kirpatrick Thomas' rousing  music, which howls and thrusts in Morricone-layers, Treasure's overall worth owes much to its talented production team.  

Among the players, Murphy stands out as the devilish Blake, while Van Hoy is convincing as the team member who dredges up the necessary survival skills.  As the weakling buddy, Drayer evinces a Mama's-boy quality, which is not well-suited for such harsh moral and geographic terrain.   

Venue: Cannes Film Festival, Market
Sales: Tricoast Worldwide
Production companies: Ardor Pictures
Cast: Cameron Van Hoy, Michael Drayer, Timothy Murphy, Masyuki Imai, Carolyn Stotesbery, Brandy Moreno
Director/Screenwriter: Mike Bruce
Producer: Cameron Van Hoy
Director of photography: Salvador Lleo De La Fe
Production designer/Costume designer: Christian Zollenkopf
Music: Kirpatrick Thomas
Editor: Marc Beroza
No rating, 85 minutes