La Soga: Salvation


La Soga doing what he does best.

(2021) Action (Screen Media) Manny Perez, Sarah Jorge León, Hada Vanessa, Chris McGarry, Juan Fernández, Félix Germán, Vicente Suriel, Billy M. Mejia, Albania Matos, Jay Ramirez, Joseph Cepin, Siegfried Puello, Pablo Rodriguez Masjoan, Brazu Montanez, Jhomphy Ventura, Michael Ras Wolf, Leonel Severino, Joyce Vandreuil, Jose Gutierrez, Juan Babyface Matos, Yakim Parker, Rose Peralta. Directed by Manny Perez

 

Back in 2009, La Soga had the distinction of being the first movie from the Dominican Republic to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. A dozen years later, the sequel repeated the feat and is now finding theatrical and streaming release here in the United States.

Luisito (Perez, who also wrote and directed the sequel) is living a quiet life in Pawtucket, Rhode Island with his girlfriend Lia (León), trying to forget his past as a hitman for the secret police in his home country of the Dominican Republic, going by the code name of La Soga. The two have spent the last decade moving from place to place, trying to stay away from vengeful drug lords who still want a pound of Luisito’s flesh. But now, it seems, they have found the tranquility and anonymity they both desire and are thinking about finally starting a family. In fact, Lia has just discovered the she is pregnant, and is looking forward to breaking the good news to her boyfriend.

But before she can, his past finally catches up with him, in the person of Federal agent James McCann (McGarry), who jovially likes to be called “Jimmy Mac.” He has a job for La Soga, which Luisito doesn’t want to take. He knows that he and Lia must once more go on the run. He just needs to pick up his last paycheck from the bodega he works in and they can go, but he is ambushed there by McCann’s men. He survives the ambush, and hurries home, to find the apartment in chaos and Lia gone. He gets a phone call from McCann; he has Lia, and will kill her if that job he wanted done doesn’t get done. Luisito has no choice but to take on the assignment, which is to kill a Dominican drug lord before he can go on trial.

But it turns out there’s another player in the game, one with a far more personal stake in the goings-on, and just as deadly as Luisito. Now, he has to find Lia, rescue her and avoid all manner of assassins if he is to save his family.

As action films go, this one is somewhat generic. Perez has a kind of smoldering, brooding presence that is generally suitable for the genre, but he also isn’t a superhuman killing machine either; he is perhaps the most ordinary action hero that I’ve ever seen in a genre film, and that’s truly welcome. When your hero is virtually unstoppable, it tends to take the tension out of the cinematic equation.

The movie is generally well-written, but doesn’t offer any variation on tried-and-true formulas, so in that sense the movie is entirely forgettable. Still, León has a great deal of screen presence, even though it isn’t utilized much, and Perez does a pretty good job as well. While the action sequences aren’t innovative, they are at least competently done and devoid of any CGI assistance. Generally speaking, this is a throwback to the B-movie action films of the Eighties and that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

REASONS TO SEE: Luisito is a different kind of action hero.
REASONS TO AVOID: Very standard action flick in many respects.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of violence, profanity, brief nudity and some drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The English translation of La Soga is “the Rope.”
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/29/2022: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Sicario
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Yardie

Hunt for the Wilderpeople


An odder couple you will not find.

An odder couple you will not find.

(2016) Comedy (The Orchard) Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Oscar Kightley, Stan Walker, Mike Minogue, Cohen Holloway, Rhys Darby, Troy Kingi, Taika Waititi, Hamish Parkinson, Stu Giles, Lloyd Scott, Selina Woulfe, Mabelle Dennison, Timothy Herbert, Sonia Spyve. Directed by Taika Waititi

Florida Film Festival 2016

Kids aren’t always easy fits. They aren’t always little darlings. Some have had a tough go of things and they don’t always behave like angels. They act out. They lash out. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad kids though.

Ricky Baker (Dennison) is a kid just like that. After his mom gave him away, he has been shuttled from foster home to foster home. Each time he ends up back in the hands of child services and Paula (House), his exasperated case officer. Ricky has one more shot – out in the sticks with Bella (Wiata), a kind-hearted woman living on the edge of the bush with her husband, curmudgeon Hec (Neill) who clearly wants nothing to do with Ricky – and for whom the feeling is mutual.

Circumstances arise that force Ricky and Hec to go fleeing into the bush with the incorrect assumption that Hec has somehow abused Ricky (mainly due to the surprisingly naive Ricky himself) and that due to circumstances, Ricky will be remanded to juvenile jail until he turns 18 as he has used up all of his foster care opportunities. The two become the object of a massive manhunt, becoming a major news story in New Zealand and the two become folk heroes.

With the relentless Paula chasing them and bounty hunters on their tail, it will take all of Hec’s bush knowledge to keep the city-bred hip-hop loving Ricky safe. And all of New Zealand seems hell bent on capturing the two and sending them both to their respective jails.

From the co-director of the wonderful What We Do in the Shadows, this is one of those movies that either the humor will appeal to you or it won’t. For me and Da Queen, it definitely did. There’s a scene early on of Bella killing a wild boar which won’t sound funny on paper, but had me in stitches. Comedy gold, I tell you.

Sam Neill, who has been around for quite awhile, puts in what just might be his best performance ever here. It’s not that Hec is just grouchy; he has to deal with all sorts of emotions, including some tender ones, during the course of the film. I’ve always liked Neill, going back to his turn as an adult Damian in The Omen III to his work in Jurassic Park and one of my favorites, The Hunt for Red October. This is the movie that fans of this actor should make a point of seeing.

Also, mention must be made of Julian Dennison as Ricky Baker. This is a young actor who has amazing comedy chops. He is blessed with a script that doesn’t descend into chintz or shtick, nor does it unduly play off of Dennison’s size (he’s overweight as you can see from the picture). Yet they don’t make him a laughingstock, as the movies often do with portly kids. That’s a good thing to see, but as well, Dennison nails his role and makes Ricky Baker a memorable character. That’s not an easy thing to do in a film like this.

The scenery is beautiful – New Zealand came by its reputation as one of the most beautiful places on Earth honestly. The soundtrack is also chock full of some terrific Kiwi pop songs that will keep your toes tapping throughout. There literally is nothing not to like about this movie.

Okay, maybe one thing. Some of the humor might be a little more over the top than some American audiences are used to. There’s a character played by @Midnight favorite Rhys Darby named Psycho Sam who lives up to his name. His presence derails the movie a little bit even though Darby does a fine job. It just feels like the character came in from another movie.

Otherwise, this movie rocks from beginning to end. It’s funny, sweet and like Ricky himself has a heart of gold under all the bluster. Definitely one of the finer movies to be screened at the Florida Film Festival this year. It’s out and about the country right now, doing a walkabout of its on in American theaters. Catch it at one while you still can.

REASONS TO GO: Much funnier than I was led to believe it was. The soundtrack is abso-bloody-lutely terrific. Majestical scenery.
REASONS TO STAY: May be a little too out there for some.
FAMILY VALUES: A bit of foul language and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the birthday scene, ten takes were filmed of the cast singing “Happy Birthday” to Ricky until someone realized that they didn’t have the rights to use the song. Therefore, the actors made up a new song on the spot, the one which appears in the film (and also partially in the trailer).
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/1/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: 80/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Buddymoon
FINAL RATING: 9/10
NEXT: The American Experience begins!