2 August 2017 | carguychris
Can sharks jump in the jungle?
Being a bad-movie aficionado, I was immediately intrigued by the prominent byline on the DVD case boasting about the special effects team--not the lead actors, director, or producers--the SFX. I figure this film looks bad, the DVD is only $1, and I'll give it a go!
This is not a terrible film; it was obviously made by professionals. It's competently shot, lit, and edited, it's in focus, and the sound effects and dialogue are well-recorded. The orchestral score by German composer Ralf Wienrich is surprisingly good, several cuts above most low-budget features. The action moves along very well; this film is generally entertaining and never downright boring, except possibly during the plodding opening credits. The actors do a half-decent job, with heroine Kristin Datillo and dictator John Rhys-Davies standing out. Reviewers who accuse this film of being the "worst ever!" belie their unfamiliarity with genuinely boring and incompetently-made snooze-fests by directors such as Coleman Francis. In summary, the film is well-made, coherent, and fun, and the filmmakers obviously knew enough not to take themselves too seriously.
The main problem is the script. It's badly clichéd, overly frenetic, not as genuinely funny as the filmmakers want it to be, and blatantly contrived to link the SFX-laden action sequences together. These factors in themselves aren't fatal, as some low-budget films manage to overcome these flaws. The big problems hit during the movie's second half.
The film's first half is your basic McGuffin setup in which stylish California wife Claire (Kristin Datillo) tries to surprise her fiancé Will (Michael Lowry) on business in Switzerland, only to discover that he is actually in the mysterious Central American country of El Coronado, and may be involved in an ongoing revolution there. She connects with journalist and adventurer Arnet McClure (Clayton Rohner) and his cameraman and sidekick, go on a quest to find both her lost fiancé and the mysterious rebel forces, and wind up being pursued by the El Coronado military. Much of the dialogue is silly, with numerous one-liners falling flat, but this segment of the film is pretty good overall; the bridge sequence in particular is very well-done.
Then Claire is found by the rebels, whose base is hidden in a cavern housing hidden Mayan ruins, accessed by flying helicopters through a waterfall(!)... the shark jumps here.
From this point forward, the story goes in too many directions at once, veering down plot dead-ends and frequently becoming illogical at best and ridiculous at worst. Our heroine supports the revolution for reasons that never become clear--perhaps because the movie would end if she didn't. She finds her fiancé, who seems set up to be a villain, but he never seems very villainous because he gets very little dialogue and then disappears from the story. Rebel commander Sancho (Daniel Zacapa) is introduced, but he never really does anything except behave roguishly charming and rescue Claire when the plot demands it. Rebel leader Rafael (Byron Quiros) and dictator Presidente Ramos (John Rhys-Davies, in the film's funniest performance) are introduced; however, we never learn why the revolution is occurring, other than some vague blather about tyranny. OK, Rafael is photogenic and gives good inspirational speeches, and the Presidente is a pompous buffoon--which makes one wonder how effective he is at oppressing people.
This scattershot plot is accompanied by heavy-handed CGI effects that haven't held up very well and quickly get overwhelming. Any viewers familiar with real-world aircraft and military operations will roll their eyes frequently as the filmmakers disregard basic military tactics and the laws of aerodynamics; the film almost seems like outright fantasy towards the end, as the director tries to overcome the story's shortcomings by throwing more CGI helicopters, tanks, and giant torch-wielding crowds at the screen. The viewer's disbelief must be suspended VERY high.
Older children will be entertained if they don't scoff too much at the dated effects. Fans of bad movies and seekers of cheap and ridiculous entertainment will enjoy it for the sake of laughing at its flaws. Other viewers may want to stay away.
One thing this movie has going for it is that it's over-the-top tone, shtick-laden dialogue, improbability, and ridiculous SFX absolutely beg to be riffed on "MST3K: The Return"; Jonah and Joel, are you listening?