Thursday, August 11, 2011

Turistas (2006)

When vacationing turns into survival

Enter Brazil: a beautiful and strange country to a foreigner with exotic wildlife and a mixed bag of locals who speak a flavorful tongue. A paternal brother looks after his sister and her friend while vacationing on the north eastern side of the country, which is a fantastic sight to behold but spells trouble for the on-screen characters as there's less wealth and modernization than the other states to the south. You don't need a translator in Portuguese to realize that means less help. Think of "Turistas" as something along the lines of a tropical version of "Tourist Trap" and "The Hills Have Eyes" that instead focuses on adventure and the natives than on the weirdos and grime.

Degue fever, favelas and rip currents didn't get these turistas, though right from the get-go danger lurks from a near fatal bus accident due to a reckless driver. This puts a damper on their plans as another ride would take half the day to pick them up. A secluded beach front seems like the better idea in the downtime with a full bar, attractive locals and fun and games. That is until they wake up groggy, not just from an alcohol hangover, but from spiked sedatives in their drinks. All of their possessions are gone, as well as their ride home. A young guy from last night named Kiko offers to take them to his uncle's house. After trekking for hours through the jungle, they scavenge food, drink and clothing and await the arrival of the uncle who's been shown all the while in different scenes interacting with others with a controlling and violent temper. At this point, getting back their belongings and going home is the least of their worries.

There isn't enough time for character development, though "Turistas" has credible acting and natural bonding between the cast for the steady pace it moves at. This sets up shreds of momentary believability for a total foreigner entering this large tropical land full of beauty, mystery and potential danger. This is a play on what "Deliverance" did back when it came out for folks who live in backwoods country in the United States, even if both circumstances are very remote from happening, as it's cinematic entertainment that focuses on the unusual and one can't look too far into it or let it spoil their future vacation plans. This is an adventure-thriller that injects shocking horror that includes some explicit gore in the unrated version. This has suspense that radiates with gripping tension as you witness these people go into survival mode. The story had an inevitable turn out, though it doesn't feel as manipulated as others that have borrowed the formula, as some of the specific trials and tribulations they go through have potential to put you in the moment with them.

Rating: 7/10

Director: John Stockwell (Crazy/Beautiful, Blue Crush, Into the Blue)
Stars: Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde
Link: IMDB

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