22 February 2004 | vchimpanzee
variation on a formula, but still a formula
Mike Stark wants to build a resort city called Byzantium on the site of an ancient city. Because the site is a large jungle area, he has Dr. Hofstadter develop a defoliant which works as well as Agent Orange, but without side effects (at least that's what they believe). Dr. Christine DuMaurier, whose late husband was an anthropologist, is concerned about what the development will do to the native people. A mysterious death leads Stark and Dr. Hofstadter to the jungle, where Dr. DuMaurier confronts Stark, who is unmoved. Stark believes that the native people will want progress. Some do, especially the young people. Others are strongly opposed and might even resort to violence to stop Stark.
Dr. Hofstadter is open to Dr. DuMaurier's ideas. Her theory is that the ancient culture that lived in the area--one more advanced than the Mayans--died out because of a similar defoliant which caused genetic mutations.
This was an okay movie. The native people seemed convincing, especially during religious ceremonies, and there was a lot of Spanish (I assume) spoken, though no need for subtitles. The standout performance, to me, was that of Michel Angelo Mejias, as Memo, a boy with a lot of ambition who impressed Stark, saying Memo reminded him of himself. Memo was quite a likeable character. In one notable scene, Memo and a girl (I would assume his girlfriend) lip-synced to a rock song and did a sultry dance onstage. (I liked the girlfriend, whose name I don't remember, but we didn't see enough of her.) The younger natives and the Americans were more impressed with this than the older natives.
The ending was quite disturbing. There was a positive quality to the final scenes, but not without the negatives that it took to reach that point. And while we didn't see actual violence, we saw its results, which were pretty graphic.