“Definitely not produced in association with the Dominican Republic Tourist Board.”
What? Gina Carano in another action flick? Why was I not informed of this? After all, Haywire was an undeniably impressive entry in the genre, featuring some of the crunchiest mayhem seen in a while. Throw in that this was directed by Stockwell, who directed the hidden gem, Cat Run, and my interest was thoroughly piqued. Sadly, this isn’t up to the level of either, though certainly has its moments. Carano plays Ava Grant, an ex-junkie who met her other half, Derek (Gigandet) at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, but whose murky past is clearly far beyond that of her husband. Ava’s father brought her up tough, and able to protect herself, basing her life on mantras such as, “Survivors have scars. Losers have funerals.” We see, in flashback, that she was an apt student.
Meanwhile, in the present day, she and Derek marry, despite the qualms of his father, who thinks she’s only after money, and honeymoon in the Dominican Republic [played by Puerto Rico, which one imagines was happy to portray a rival tourist destination as a crime-infested hellhole], where they’re befriended by a local, Manny (Cordova). He talks them into a zip-lining expedition, despite after a nasty encounter at a nightclub with local gangster, Big Biz (Danny Trejo). An accident results in Derek being whizzed off to hospital, but when Ava gets there, she finds no trace of him can be found, and the local police chief (Guzman) is less than enthusiastic about investigating. What’s a girl to do? Well, if you’re an expertly-trained fighter with a hair-trigger temper and a grudge, you start off at the zip-line facility, and work your way, methodically and with malice aforethought, up the chain from there, until you find the people responsible.
It works, much as Haywire did, because Carano is entirely convincing as someone who could kick your ass, and is just choosing not to. Indeed, the version here is scarier, in that she has less restraint, but shares the same terse effectiveness; the ass-kicking will be swift, merciless, and to the point. The problem here is the script, which has huge gaps in logic. For instance, at one point Ava is in what’s supposed to be an utterly lawless barrio. But five seconds after firing her gun, sirens sound, and she just sits there. A little later, she shows up in the house of the police chief; how does she know where he lives? It just seems very sloppily plotted, and that’s before we get to the reason for the abduction, which severely strains credulity [though won’t be much of a surprise, if you’ve seen another Stockwell film, Turistas, which painted a similarly unflattering portrait of Brazil] It’s still worth seeing, purely for Carano’s magnificent intensity – but almost purely for that. And Danny Trejo, of course!
Dir: John Stockwell
Star: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Luis Guzman