Back in the Stone Age when I was in college, I recall a friend
of mine telling me about travelling throughout South America and
just how dangerous it could be. She had been warned not to wear
flashy jewelry, to travel only with groups, and to avoid strange or
remote areas. Now, to me, those sounded like safety precautions
anyone should follow, whether on vacation or not.

 It's too bad she wasn't around to proffer that advice to the
characters from various English-speaking countries who are the
main figures in
TURISTAS, the latest in the line of "tourists in
jeopardy" movies that have gradually replaced the "woman in peril"
thrillers that audiences seem to love. On paper, there appears to
be correlations between
HOSTEL, Eli Roth's gorefest set in Eastern
Europe, and
TURISTAS, John Stockwell's nightmare in Brazil.

Honestly, I couldn't sit through
HOSTEL; it made me squeamish.
I did make it all the way through
TURISTAS, but more out of lethargy
than anything else. The film begins with a bus ride on a rural road
somewhere in Brazil. The driver is speeding along and the audience
just knows that the reckless driver will be responsible for a crash.
Indeed, there is a wreck and the English-speaking tourists tend
to stick together. There's the hunky American Alex (Josh Duhamel),
his sister Bea (Olivia Wilde) and her hot-to-trot blonde best friend
Amy (Beau Garrett). Rounding out the sextet are Pru (Melissa George),
an Australian with cornrows who at least has a passing knowledge of
Portuguese, and two Brits, Finn (Desmond Askew) and Liam (Max
Brown).

 Instead of waiting for the arrival of the next bus, the six
head off to a beachside cantina where they strip down to their
bathing suits, drink, dance and party. They encounter a Swedish
couple and the sultry bartender tips off a mysterious figure that
there's fresh meat available (or something to that effect. Michael
Arlen Ross' script isn't exactly Shakespeare.) When everyone awakens
after an evening of debauchery, they not only have a hangover, they
discover that they've been robbed of everything. No money, no
passports, no jewelry (Bea is particularly concerned over her
grandmother's ring), etc. After venturing to a local village in search
of the police, there's a dust-up involving two kids and some rocks.
One of the locals, Kiko (Agles Steib) agrees to take them to his
"uncle's" home in the jungle where they can hide and await
transportation. On the way there, he makes a detour to show them
a lovely waterfall and underwater caves.

 Of course Kiko's "uncle" is the mad doctor Zamora (Miguel
Lunardi) who has plans for the turistas. He's going to operate
on them, remove a few vital organs, and transport them to a local
hospital to save the lives of Brazilians. Zamora has a wild speech
in which he derides the English-speakers for stealing everything from
his country and this is his way of meting out a little revenge.
Thankfully most of the gory stuff is left to the imagination, although
there are a few shots of an operation which aren't for the squeamish,
but which are no worse than one might see on television shows like
ER or GREY'S ANATOMY.

 John Stockwell's direction is painstakingly slow. As he has in
his other films, he lingers on the hard-body attractiveness of the
female cast (with an occasional dollop of beefcake for the ladies
in the audience). I found myself getting impatient, though, as the
set up seemed to take forever. Just get to the doctor, I kept thinking.

 The film's climax, though, is muddied and the usually reliable
cinematographer Enrique Chediak seemingly could not salvage the
footage. The denouement unfolds on a rainy, dark night with people
running through the forest and diving into the water. Truthfully, it
became difficult to figure out who was doing what to whom and
after a while, I just stopped caring.

 
TURISTAS seemed to have a fascinating, cautionary premise,
but in execution, the movie turned out to be messy and decidedly
unmemorable.


    Rating:                D
    MPAA Rating:        R for strong graphic violence and disturbing
                                 content, sexuality, drug use and language                   
     Running time:       89 mins.


                 Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
Turistas
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.