The Burning (El Ardor), 2014.
Directed by Pablo Fendrik.
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alice Braga, Chico Diaz, Claudio Tolcachir, Jorge Sesan, Ivan Steinhardt, Julian Tello and Lautaro Vilo.
A mysterious man emerges from the Argentinian rainforest to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a poor farmer after mercenaries murder her father and take over his property.
Part eco-thriller, part revenge western, The Burning is a Spanish-language Argentinian production bristling with both ambition and unflinching worthiness. Unfortunately, the plot itself never really catches alight, and a presentation of clichéd characters and one-trick motivations does little to inspire.
Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Babel) plays the mysterious stranger (never addressed, but named in the credits as ‘Kai’ ) conjured up to assist a family of farmers plagued by miscreant land-grabbers. This trio of fundamentally bad men won’t take no for an answer, and prove it in extreme violence.
While Kai knows that they’re on their way, he can’t do much about the murder of the father and abduction of daughter Vania (Alice Braga). He waits in the wings, not wishing to draw attention to himself and cause even greater destruction. After healing the farmer’s wounded son with some special shamanistic rubbing lotion, he sets out to rescue Vania.
And from there on in it is a fairly predictable sequence of events with stalking and tracking, javelin chucking and gun fights all providing the action, but little of the required tension.
On the plus side, the scenery is beautiful and is shot with a breathtaking nature doc style that, in the first half in particular, is meditative and soothing. Providing the audience with the character of the rainforest itself is an interesting ploy, but it brings about a disjointed narrative that seems confused and without focus.
For what is essentially a revenge story, the actual act of fighting back seems to take an age to transpire. When it finally does, the head bad guy (Claudio Tolcachir) looks lost and ineffectual as though he’s forgotten exactly what’s going on.
Make no mistake, the rain forest is beautiful, and is obviously worth fighting for. Just perhaps a little harder than this.
A making of feature.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.