Director: Marcos Efron
Cast: Amber Heard, Odette Yustman, Karl Urban, Cesar Vianco
Plot: Two girls make their way through a cycling track, when they get separated and one of them goes missing. The locals appear to be scared of something, so Stephanie (Heard) sets out on her own to get her friend back.
This is a very pretty movie. The first few shots summarise this well. Set in Argentina, director Efron lovingly films the backdrop, squeezing every bit of natural beauty from the landscape. On top of that, we are introduced to the two gorgeous female leads, Amber Heard and Odette Yustman, who breathe light into everything they are in, before they even open their mouths. Yes, everything looks very pretty and appealing, but that is about as far as the good things I have to say about this movie go.
It becomes clear very quickly that the premise here is the sex trade. Pretty girls been captured in the middle of the night by creepy men in bars and imprisoned for a few days, before being shipped away and being lost to the system. This has the potential to be a really good hook for this film. It is a current topic, confirms every fear young women have about going on holiday aboard and could play to both crowds seeking ‘Hostel/Saw’ type set-ups, but with some serious and eerie undertones. Sadly, Efron never seems to realise the gold-mine of a premise he is sitting on and simply goes from set-piece to set-piece, the pace severely lacking in between moments. Sure, there are some tense moments and at the very least, I was gripped until the end to try and figure out how the girls were going to get out of this situation, but I have a feeling that this was nothing to do with the director or writer (let’s just say Amber Heard isn’t just trying to save the day, she’s trying to save the whole movie.)
There’s just a total lack of passion from the director here. The script holds the actors back from the great performance they are striving to make. They are never allowed to become anything more than one-dimensional figures (Odette Yustman goes for broke though and her energy keeps the first half of the movie going). Moments that should have been eerily uncomfortable were simply filmed. When we see a girl tied up in the sex trafficker’s lair, we should be holding our breath, unable to tear away, yet not wanting to be watching the next few moments. That never really happens. Also, the ending should have been stretched out a little more, but the writers get impatient and simply cut to the heroic fight back from the captives. Part of me was glad that the film wanted to be over as quickly as possible, but the rest of me really wanted to get my hands on this script and inject some life into it. The final scene is pathetically done, a quick conclusion, proving that the producers and director really have no stakes in this movie.
I really don’t want to write it off though, because the actors here are really trying to make this work. Against all odds, they keep it watchable. Karl Urban hits the perfect balance of the man in the background, who could be honestly helpful or maybe he has darker motives at play. This is one of the more interesting ideas here. Amber Heard and Odette Yustman seems to have a trend, where they star in awful movies, asking them to play little more than pretty stereotypes, yet hitting every note regardless. These girls need better roles. Extras are asked to look suspicious (although most of them disappear into the story, despite being hinted at big things in the finale), which they all do very well. There is a real sense of xenophobia here, which was nice. And once again, Argentina looks stunning. But when the background is the best thing about your movie, something went horribly wrong.
Final Verdict: The actors try their hardest, but there is no denying that a terrible script and boring direction stop this interesting premise from interesting us.