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  • 18
  • Adventure, Drama
  • 2006
  • 93 mins

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

Synopsis

Tourists leave their heart in the Brazilian jungle in this exploitation thriller directed by John Stockwell

Critic's Review

"You don't have to do this. Oh God, not like this, no!"

So pleads the blonde girl, strapped to a bed and surrounded by surgical equipment, in the arresting prologue to Paradise Lost (aka Turistas), as a sinister figure is seen reflected in her terrified eyes. Even before we are introduced to the film's principal characters - six young tourists backpacking through Brazil in search of sun, sex and surf - we have a pretty good idea that there is going to be trouble in paradise.

After their bus crashes in the middle of nowhere, our hapless travelers - American Alex (Duhamel), his sister Bea (Wilde), her best friend Amy (Garrett), Australian Pru (George) and lecherous Brits Finn (Askew) and Liam (Brown) - decide to head for the nearest beach, where they are at first seduced, and then drugged and robbed, by the villagers. Rescue seems to come in the form of Kiko (Steib), a local boy who offers to take them to his uncle's house deep in the jungle, but there unimaginable horrors await, as the group is taught a cutting lesson in exploitation.

Exploitation, in fact, is the key to Paradise Lost, which lazily rehashes elements familiar from The Beach, Wolf Creek and above all Hostel even as it takes full advantage of the fear of foreigners so prevalent in post-9/11 America.

For a while Paradise Lost seems to be going somewhere interesting, even confronting, with its antagonist Zamora (Lunardi) embodying the righteous vengeance of a nation that has for centuries been manipulated and exploited by the north and now wants "to even the scales". But it is not long before he is reduced to a cartoon villain, skewering the eye of a henchman for kicks, and hateful not just of 'gringo' outsiders but of the 'worthless' Indians that he is all too happy to exploit himself.

Such simplistic caricaturing ensures that it is impossible to take seriously Zamora's sneering critique of America's economic rapacity, and the film's final message (keep your distance from those crazy Brazilians!) seems merely to reinstate the kind of xenophobia that earlier scenes had sought to reverse. It is almost as though first-time screenwriter Michael Arlen Ross lost his spine even faster than his characters lose their organs.

What remains is a blood-spattered picture postcard of a movie. The cast is undistinguished but easy enough on the eye, the scenery is gorgeous, and director John Stockwell has even found a way to incorporate the sort of underwater sequences that he honed in his earlier films Blue Crush and Into The Blue.

Which is just as well, because once the 'turistas' have worked out the nature of their awful predicament, there is little left for them to do but cut and run, so that their breathless dive through a wet cave system can offer a pleasingly unconventional setting for what is otherwise entirely by-numbers cat-and-mouse plotting.

If the cave footage strikes viewers as somewhat gratuitous, it is as nothing compared to the bizarre 1980s-style morality (whereby the characters who have sex are also the ones who die), not to mention the inexcusable line, "Would you guys mind if I went topless?" It is enough to leave anyone baying for blood, but that is the film's other problem: just too damned many of its main characters survive.

In a nutshell: Brazil's tourist industry gets a bad rap in this horror-lite shocker that might just leave you rooting for the bad guy.

By Anton Bitel

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Desmond Askew, Josh Duhamel, Beau Garrett, Olivia Wilde, Max Brown, Agles Steib, Miguel Lunardi, Melissa George
  • Director: John Stockwell
  • Screen Writer: Michael Arlen Ross, Bo Zenga, Scott Steindorff
  • Producer: John Stockwell, Scott Steindorff, Bo Zenga, Marc Butan
  • Photographer: Peter Zuccarini, Enrique Chediak
  • Composer: Paul Haslinger

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