Before “Camino” made it’s debut at Fantastic Fest on September, 26, 2015, there was a brief q-and-a with the creative team, who divulged that the screenplay was written in only two days. That certainly raised a red flag for one of the biggest misfires of the festival this year. This 1980’s period piece starring Zoe Bell as Avery Taggert, a war photojournalist in the Colombian jungle was a messy experience to say the least.
Taggert is documenting the activities of a missionary guerrilla army with a fanatical leader (filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo) whose actions belie his claims of humanitarianism. When she witnesses him killing a child, he tells his group that it was she that did the killing. Taggert then takes off into the jungle to escape with her life. Even if you’re willing to buy the premise that soldiers would believe a photojournalist would murder a child, there are so many roadblocks to a consistent storyline in “Camino”, that any semblance of an engaging narrative disintegrates right in front of your eyes.
Wince-inducing moments like a missionary asking Taggert if Disneyland “is really where dreams come true?”, or when she imagines her husband by her side, telling her to fight for her life, are just a barrage of cliches and clumsy filmmaking choices. Those choices also include the choice of dramatic leads: Bell is an amazing stunt-woman, but her acting skills are modest. We engage with her because she, like many action stars of the 80’s, has a winning persona and energy that makes you root for her. But not even a master thespian could pull off these lines, and she struggles with the wonky dialogue.
Likewise, Vigalando chews the Rainforest greenery with endless speeches of maniacal gibberish (his favorite being his joy of sending others to their death while screaming: “Do you see the spiral?! Do you see it?!) It becomes unintentionally comedic at first, and ultimately exhausting. “A Girl Walks Alone At Night” star Sheila Vand has a supporting role as one of Vigalando’s true believers, but she’s given scant to do, although her wide, haunting eyes add much needed dramatic weight to the proceedings.
Director Josh Waller’s tries to invest the film with a barrage of energy, but ultimately it just comes across ham handed and disjointed. There is a plot point in particular in the latter half where a clearly deceased character is reintroduced. It’s jarring and confusing to say the least. And when the big climax is revealed, it will cause more groans and eye rolls than cheers.
Luckily Bell has a role in Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” later this year, which will easily offset and outlast this tonally uneven film that doesn’t give enough genre thrills or dramatic excitement to generate any steam.