by Patrick Bromley
Going into Camino, the new film from director Josh Waller and the latest starring vehicle for My Girlfriend Zoë Bell, I was really hoping this was going to be the movie that gets it right -- the movie she deserves after a career of stunt work, supporting roles in genre movies (Game of Death, Oblivion, Gamer) and the occasional lead (Angel of Death, Mercenaries). Camino reunites Bell with Waller, who previously directed her in the 2014 fight-to-the-death movie Raze. The two movies have a lot in common, and as someone who wasn't all that crazy about Raze that comes as a disappointment.
MGFZB plays award-winning war photographer Avery Taggert (!) who is sent to 1985 Columbia (the movie is set in 1985; she is not a time traveler) to follow a group of missionaries led by Guillermo (played by Nacho Vigalondo, director of Timecrimes and Open Windows). Before you can say "things aren't what they seem," Avery discovers that things aren't what they seem and that these missionaries are actually bad dudes who proceed to spend the rest of the movie hunting her through the jungle and trying to kill her for what she and her camera have seen.
Also very entertaining is director-turned-actor Vigalondo, clearly having a great time as bad guy Guillermo. While the role only demands that he be a fairly generic South American soldier bad guy, Vigalondo finds small ways to make him funny and give him human quirks -- just the way he repeats "relax and squeeze" is very amusing. I'm probably grading on a curve somewhat because I'm so tickled at the novelty of the filmmaker playing the film's villain, but he's maybe the only thing that gives the movie any levity at all. Otherwise, it's a pretty grim affair. I guess when your inciting incident is child murder there aren't going to be a lot of laughs to be had.
The Hateful Eight -- is that Bell is a goddamn luminous presence. She has endless charm and a sweet positivity that cannot be faked. Yes, those things can coexist alongside her kick-your-ass fierceness. But it feels like so many directors and casting agents just see the scowl and her ability to take a punch, overlooking just how much fun she is on screen. Josh Waller doesn't seem to be interested in making those kinds of movies, and while I appreciate that he's giving starring roles to MGFZB I wish it wasn't only in these really serious, gritty action movies. Seeing as she's an executive producer on the movie, she's party to it as well. Maybe these are the kinds of films she's most interested in making. But watching her being forced to suffer and suffer in movies that are totally joyless is like someone throwing a tarp over the sun. Gotta let that thing shine.