“Camino” marks the latest collaboration between director Josh C. Waller and badass stunt chick, Zoe Bell, who is pretty much worth the price of admission no matter what she does. Their previous film, the gritty exploitation brawler “Raze” was a model of small-scale efficency and raw power. The duo try to replicate the female-driven energy of that film with “Camino”, a forgettable jungle chase flick that fails to play up to Bell’s considerable strengths, and suggests Waller should keep his ambitions modest.
There’s a reason why Quentin Tarantino finds a place for Bell in pretty much all of his films, and her physicality is only part of it. She’s sexy, down to earth, and among the best at playing tough, emotionally scarred women. That she can also believably kick a guy’s butt is icing on the cake. In “Camino” she plays Avery, a renowned, award-winning war photographer who has traveled around the world capturing terrible atrocities and human suffering. Publicly she appears to be a pillar of strength, but privately she’s a trainwreck who drinks too much, sleeps around, and hallucinates about her estranged ex. She’s most comfortable when covering the tragedy of others, which is why leaps at the chance to shoot the charismatic revolutionary, El Guero (Nacho Vigalondo), and his fellow guerrillas in the jungles of Colombia.
Looked upon as an outsider, for obvious reasons, Avery hard to belive when El Guero murders a child then frames her for the crime. Knowing that she has photos of him committing the murder, El Guero sends his troops to finish her off, but of course it doesn’t come easily. The film quickly falls into a consistent pattern where Avery encounters one of El Guerro’s soldiers, takes a brutal beating, then finds a way out of the predicament. Waller, whose tendencies lean towards the graphic, doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable beatings Avery takes. Nor is Bell a shrinking violet who can’t withstand the punishment being dished out. As usual, she handles the stuntwork herself, combining rugged hand-to-hand combat with daring acts most leading ladies wouldn’t have the guts to attempt. When not kicking butt, Bell brings a surprising amount of heart, pain, and anguish to the role of Avery; going well beyond the screenplay’s bare-bones framework. She gets no help from her supporting cast, however. Vigalondo, the actor/director known for directing stylish-but-empty thrillers “Timecrimes” and “Open Windows”, brings a similar over-the-top quality to his performance as the psychotic El Guerro. If there’s a reason why the film feels sorta cheap and low-rent, it’s his hammy showing.
The main culprit turns out to be Waller, however. While the film only clocks in at 103 minutes it feels twice that long, and grows repetitive in the first 45. Falling back on cheap camera tricks, such as unnecessary pans and close-ups signifying nothing, Waller is largely responsible for any momentum quickly going off the rails. When Zoe Bell dispatching an entire squad of armed soldiers is boring, then there’s nobody else to blame but the director for wasting her talents when they should have been showcased.