2015 - 103 minutes
Directed by: Josh C. Waller
Written by: Daniel Noah
Starring: Zoe Bell, Nacho Vigalondo, Francisco Barreiro, Sheila Vand, Dominic Rains, Jason Canela, Nancy Gomez, Tecoch Huerta, Kevin Pollak
After roughing her up as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the Kill Bill films, Quentin Tarantino featured Zoe Bell as an actress in Death Proof, having her play a version of her stuntwoman self. In addition to showing serious skills and toughness in that film’s amazing climactic car chase, Bell flashed some charm and personality in front of the camera to supplement her superior physicality. Following a string of VOD actioners, Camino comes closest to unlocking the star’s potential as engaging heroine. While acceptable as a springboard for Bell, the film doesn’t quite make meaningful sense out of its mix of adventure and theater.
Bell plays Avery, a renowned photojournalist with wavering enthusiasm for the profession and pain stockpiled from past traumas. Persuaded by her editor (Kevin Pollak) to take another assignment, Avery heads to Colombia to follow a group of missionaries led by Guillermo (Nacho Vigalondo). When Avery, and her camera, capture Guillermo’s true nefarious motivations for the goodwill trip in the jungle, he convinces his team that the photographer is the evildoer. The cat-and-mouse game involving running through the wilderness and stopping every so often for hand-to-hand combat is on.
Though never really explained, Bell makes Avery’s survival skills believable. It’s logical to deduce that her job has taken her to hotspots in the past and Bell is always in the middle of the action doing her own stunts. It’s easy to buy her as a resourceful, durable Type A individual who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by this extraordinary, terrifying situation. Bell’s just as good in the quieter dramatic moments in the first act. As she hangs back and observes the missionary group with her lens, she comes across as a pensive and thoughtful artist.
Vigalondo crafts an interesting villain to a point, effectively charismatic and affable to gain trust and then completely ruthless when needed to serve his agenda. His affectations do grow tiresome, however, and his scenery chewing becomes more grating than menacing. It also doesn’t help that his team is so bland, fitting neatly into recognizable stereotypes – the robotic solider of few words, the sensitive rookie, the couple who deeply believes in their mission of goodwill, etc. When the confrontations with Avery come, there’s no impact from their fates, being served up as excuses for fight scenes or to be illustrations of Guillermo’s savagery.
Director Josh C. Waller uses Bell effectively in the skirmishes, making the most of having his star also be an accomplished stunt player. This allows for staged action that’s not chopped up to hide the seams where a double steps in, and it also allows us to connect more with the character as she’s clearly being battered around.
The action itself is a little uninspired, failing to fully take advantage of the jungle setting or the elements that lie within. The setting looks good, but the danger never feels as immediate it could in such an untamed landscape; the chase is straightforward, with individual pursuers happening upon Avery so there can be one-on-one fisticuffs, a pattern that grows predicable and repetitive.
The emotion ascribed to the action is also half-baked. Early on, there are intriguing ideas regarding memorialized images that capture a moment, represented with some of the stills Avery is snapping, her visions of her husband, and memories of her past experiences that are alluded to but not shown. In the end, the poetry of these themes is lost in on-the-nose resolutions for both the protagonist and the antagonist.
Though routine with its action and story, at the very least Camino proves that Bell is a serious talent worthy of juicier drama and more harrowing action.