I have no idea what to say about this movie. It’s about a racist asshole who kills Mexicans that illegally cross the border. Because, you know, there aren’t more sensible ways to dealing with things you don’t agree with. And why do I get the feeling that his motivations are about as paper thin as, “immigrants steal our jobs,” and what have you? “A unique vision” my ass. I don’t need to see the early ratings and reviews to know that’s a load. IMDb has it at a 5.6/10, and RottenTomatoes has it at at 57% (both as of 10/13/2016). It’s not looking too good.
Let’s take a look at the cast. The film stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan (BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE , WATCHMAN , and THE LOSERS ) and Gael García Bernal (A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN , LETTERS TO JULIET , and BABEL ). Morgan’s a great actor, primarily known for playing assholes, and he does an incredible job every time. While I’m sure he’ll do fine here, it might be disappointing to see him play a two-dimensional character as opposed to someone with a few layers. Who knows? Maybe the movie is worth seeing just for him and to see him get his comeuppance. While I can’t say I know anything about Bernal, as he’s primarily a foreign film actor, it is worth noting something. There seems to be a Zorro reboot trying to get off the ground, simply titled “Z,” and he’s possibly slated for the role of Zorro. There’s no official release date, I don’t even think it’s hit pre-production yet, but hey, let’s keep an eye on that!
Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Jonás Cuarón, a relative newcomer to the industry and mostly famous for writing the screenplay for GRAVITY (2013), but not having much experience in directing. But fun fact, he’s slated to direct the Zorro reboot. His partner-in-pen Mateo García, even more of a newcomer than Cuarón, making this his feature-length debut. Congrats, sir.
Overall, I’m not super hyped for this. It may not look awful, but it looks pretty basic and a movie that anyone could make. But I’ve been surprised and I’ve disagreed with the majority before, so let’s take a look. This is my honest opinion of DESIERTO.
Moises (Gael García Bernal) and a group of Mexicans seeking better opportunities in America intend to cross the border illegally. But before they can safely do so, the truck carrying them breaks down and they have to travel on foot through a more dangerous route. There, they’re all met with Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a racist murderer who guns down most of the group. Those that survive, including Adela (Alondra Hidalgo), they are hunted by Sam mercilessly and kills them off one by one.
“A unique vision” my ass. It’s a standard cat and mouse set-up, through and through.
This might have worked better as a short film. Why? Because there’s so many reasons why this movie shouldn’t have been ninety minutes long. The first time the group encounters Sam, it makes a kind of sense. They’re in incredibly open terrain and he’s sniping everyone. But as soon as the survivors figure out that simply avoiding him isn’t an option, all they have to do is find a place to corner him and the dog, load up their packs with rocks and pelt him with them. The longer this movie got and the more dumb-asses that get killed, all I wanted to do was scream at the movie, “THROW A DAMN ROCK!!!” “HIT THE DOG WITH YOUR BACKPACK!!!” There are so many opportunities to end the movie, but it has to suspend logic for cheaper than cheap thrills that amount to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Speaking of suspension of logic, the movie also has this funny knack of commenting how hot the desert is… and yet, the heat doesn’t play a part in the story. No one really gets thirsty, unless off-screen, and everyone’s wearing multiple layers of clothing, including heavy jackets! Again, wouldn’t it be so much better if immigrants had no water, only getting more dehydrated as the story progressed, maybe start hallucinating in the process while dick-slice hillbilly over here has plenty of water and never really gets tired?
By the way, take another look at my summary. Notice how I mention the names of the characters? “Moises,” “Sam,” and “Adela?” I’m pretty sure with the exception of a select couple characters, the core characters’ names are never uttered in the movie. You’re never going to call Moises by his name. You’re going to call him “the main Mexican dude,” and Adela will be, “the girl.” It’s a wonder why the credits even bothered with names. The characters we would remember are the ones who are never introduced, and the ones that are introduced are the first to die and we don’t care.
Even the bad guy makes no real sense. Look, it’s already a real-world senselessness to murder anyone that crosses the border illegally, but you can chalk that up to simple racism. But this guy… there’s a scene when it’s night time and he’s talking to his dog, telling him, “I used to like this place. But I don’t anymore because of the heat.” So… why are you still there? Could you also specify what you mean by, “this place”? Do you mean the spot you picked to start a campfire? You can walk ten feet any direction and get more bang for your confederate buck. What are you doing to get yourself to a better life? Better yet, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU HAVING A MOMENT?!?!?! Is the audience suddenly supposed to care about you?! Why should we care about what you like or don’t like? You just murdered half a dozen people and celebrated! This scene is not earned, and for all intents and purposes, could never be earned!
Speaking of which, I think this villain would have worked a lot better if he wasn’t given any lines or scenes of attempted-development. The character is, more or less, just a straight-up monster. Monsters don’t need development. They’re out to cause harm or kill. Simple. Just have him basically be the Terminator, no real lines, and just shoot people while hunting for them. Or hell, if you really want to get creative, get rid of Sam altogether! Really think about that. Since this movie is trying to be horror, isn’t there some saying out there that the best horror is what’s never seen? How much more tense would the movie have been if we never saw the hunter and just kept the perspective on the immigrants? The audience would never know how many hunters there were, you’d literally never guess when someone would die, holy shit, I feel like I came up with a better movie in those few sentences right there! Aww who am I kidding, I came up with a better movie in this whole review!
The actors aren’t bad, but on the other hand, it’s not like they’re given much to work with. If you’re Hispanic, act scared. If you’re white, act like an asshole. That’s pretty much all the direction the actors are given. There’s nothing to it. Standard. Even as far as “standard” goes, this movie wasn’t very well thought out and could have been…. better. Maybe not, amazing… you know what? No, it could have been good. It could have been tense. But it wasn’t. It was very subpar. So I do not recommend this movie. There’s no real suspense and nothing to get invested in. Watch the trailer again, that’s the movie. Save yourself the time, gas, and money. It’s not worth it.
My honest rating for DESIERTO: 2/5
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