Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Sandra Bullock, Craig Sheffer, Juan Fernández, Judith Chapman, Ramsey Ross, Jorge García Bustamente, Reynaldo Arenas|
|Director:||Luis Llosa | Associate Producers: Margarita Morales Macedo, Steven Rabiner, Fernando Vasquez de Velasco|
|Distributor:||New Concorde Entertainment.|
This is a somewhat environmentally-conscious film about the Amazon Basin, but without the production values of similar fare such as “The Emerald Forest” or “Medicine Man”. And any merit the film does have is overshadowed by the politics surrounding its release and re-release.
In Bolivia, many rival interests are at odds over the proper use of the Rain Forest. There’s conflict between the tribal Indians and the rubber-tappers, and both of those groups are threatened by the lumber companies and cattle ranchers who want to clear-cut the forest. We see glimpses of clearcutting and burning.
After the murder of Rafael Santos (Eduardo Cesti), an anti-clearcutting activist, tensions are high on all sides. An Indian is fingered as the killer and then conveniently dies in his jail cell. But many people believe that the real killers are being protected. Photojournalist R.J. O'Brien (Craig Sheffer) and activist Alyssa Rothman (Sandra Bullock), despite a dislike for each other, set off together to find the truth. Along the way, their relationship is transformed as well.
Environmentalism is a hot topic. The extreme wing of environmental activism is just as unscriptural as the “don’t-care” attitude that it fights against. Mankind is commanded in Gen. 1:28 to subdue [alter] and have dominion over the Earth. That command has never changed and never will. But “subdue” doesn’t mean “destroy,” and it’s hard to object to preserving the Rain Forest, which supplies a large portion of the world’s oxygen.
Roger Corman has over 300 film credits, spanning almost 50 years, as a producer or director. Although he’s widely regarded as the King of Schlock (the first Sci-Fi film I ever saw as a kid was Corman’s 1957 offering “Attack of the Crab Monsters”), some of his work is quite good. I approached this film with an open mind; here’s my opinion. The plot is thin and the characters are not developed well. The dialogue is poor in spots. The acting is uneven; sometimes convincing, other times not. The special effects are cheap. Some of the dialogue in the outdoor scenes is faint and hard to make out, and there are scenes where a character flubbed a line and the take wasn’t re-shot. If this film was intended to heighten environmental consciousness, that’s a poor way to go about it.
There are several on-screen or implied killings by firearms, arrows and beating. Profanity is extreme, with numerous uses of f*. Many authority figures are shown as corrupt and “on the take.”
Special Note: There’s a gratuitous scene where Bullock’s and Sheffer’s characters, while staying at an Indian village, get drunk on some native brew and end up having sex. Corman kept this film in the can for a few years, then released it after Bullock became a star. He fought with Bullock over its release, and also with the MPAA second-by-second over exactly what could be shown with an R rating. That sounds more like exploitation (otherwise known as “making a profit”) than environmental consciousness. The film exists in 78 minute R, 78 minute NR and 85 minute NR versions. In the 78 minute NR version (on which this review is based), the sex scene runs about a minute and a half; it’s easy to tell when it’s coming up if you want to fast forward it; and although the actors are nude, the camera work is fairly discreet (I’ve seen worse scenes in R rated films). Presumably the R version has a few seconds chopped from this scene. I have no idea what’s in the 85 minute NR version. I don’t recommend this film. All the background hype aside, it’s poorly made. There are several better-quality films on the same theme.