The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Zoe Bell garnered a reputation as a top stunt performer in films like Kill Bill, Catwoman, and Poseidon. Then, in 2007, Quentin Tarantino gave her a sizable acting role in Death Proof, his half of the Grindhouse movie. She proved to have a natural onscreen charisma. Suddenly, a lot of people knew her name. Bell now has a starring role in Camino, a passable, but unremarkable action picture whose most notable quality is its use of her dual talents as actress and stuntwoman.

Bell plays Avery, an award-winning photojournalist, still troubled by the death of her husband, whose ghost she regularly sees (or thinks she sees). Avery gets an assignment to visit the jungles of Columbia with a group of missionaries, led by Guillermo (portrayed by Nacho Vigalondo, the director of Timecrimes and Open Windows). It doesn't take her long to realize that Guillermo is not exactly the benevolent type he makes himself out to be. In fact, he's in Columbia for very illegal reasons. After snapping a picture of him doing something outright evil, Avery finds herself running for her life, while Guillermo and his goons pursue her.

Camino benefits from two very good leads. Vigalondo has a big personality that is perfect for Guillermo. He brings a fresh quality to a stock character, giving the “missionary” a larger-than-life demeanor that seems warm and enveloping when he wants it to be, and ruthlessly deadly when he's crossed. Vigalondo makes for a fantastic villain. As for Bell, she does her own stunts in the movie, which gives certain sequences an undeniable kick. You can see it's really her getting beaten up, making dangerous leaps, and doing other hazardous things. This makes Avery's peril feel much more palpable. There are no awkward cutaways where the stunt person takes over for the actor. In the non-stunt scenes, Bell delivers just as nicely, effectively suggesting the character's inner turmoil, not only over her predicament, but also over her struggle with grief.

As good as the performances are, the film struggles in a couple key areas. Camino would have made a kickass 85-minute movie, but is instead stretched out to 103 minutes. The story is too thin and one-note to support such length – it's one long chase through the jungle -- and while there's action, there isn't enough of it to compensate for that thin, one-note story. (Things occasionally stop to allow Guillermo to deliver a pace-killing monologue.) Consequently, Camino starts to feel as though it's stuck in a rut after a while. That all the supporting characters are barely-developed stereotypes doesn't help, either. Seeing Avery take on Generic Goon #3 is a lot less exciting than seeing her take on a more three-dimensional goon would be.

At the end of the day, Camino is a decent showcase for Zoe Bell – one that suggests she could be amazing in a full-blooded action picture with a stronger story than she gets here. Director Josh Waller clearly understands her appeal and tries to make good use of it. But Bell deserves her own Kill Bill, her own Die Hard. Camino is basically an above-average Steven Seagal flick with a much more appealing lead.

( 1/2 out of four)

Camino is unrated, but contains graphic violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.

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