Part of the problem is that it has so much riding against it. This is the American remake of a 2011 action thriller that was so acclaimed when it premiered at the Cannes film festival that it was Mexico’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film that year. But where that film had style, substance, and purpose, this one feels at all times like a hunk of cheese – a quickie actioner tossed into theaters to make a few bucks from the action crowd.
That’s too bad, because it’s nice, for once, to see an action film set in Mexico starring and almost entirely Latino cast and headed by Gina Rodriquez (from Jane the Virgin) – one of the most likable young stars in Hollywood right now.
The story would seem to be almost impossible to mess up: Rodriguez plays Gloria, a make-up artist working in L.A. who makes regular trips across the border to Tijuana to visit her BFF Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) who is a beauty queen. As you might expect, things go sideways pretty quick. While out on the town, they visit a nightclub that suddenly becomes a shooting gallery. Suzu disappears, and Gloria finds herself in the middle of a great big mess.
What follows was intriguing eight years ago when it was told much better in the Mexican version, wherein Gloria is blackmailed into running all kinds of illegal things back and forth across the border at the insistence of the cartel that is holding Suzu.
The holding point of this movie is Gina Rodriguez, whose screen presence is infectious – she has a wonderful personality in a role that almost requires her to be a wooden puppet. She rises above a very bad movie, some very bad dialogue, and a film that is almost dead-set on consternating and confusing a very simple plot. I should mention that this was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who directed Twilight.
There is a lot to this story that the original got right, a lot of stylistic choices as well as dialogue that that film was able to pull off. Here, it’s all by-the-numbers. The producers don’t care if you get something new or different or challenging here. This remake turns out to be just a standard action movie with no special touches at all. You’ll forget about it as soon as it’s over. In a week. you won’t remember having seen it at all.
** (of four)
Jerry Roberts is a movie critic and movie fan who believes in Birth-Movies-Death. He is the historian for armchaircinema.com and armchairoscars.com, and he has a blog at overthinkingoscar.wordpress.com.