by Glenn Lovell
Kiwi stunt gal-turned-indie action queen Zoë Bell returns to the fray in “Camino,” an appropriately lean, muscular survival number that pits her against a crime czar hiding out in the jungles of Colombia.
No, Bell’s latest isn’t on a par with Gina Carano’s “In the Blood,” but it still qualifies as a fun twist on the warrior princess subgenre.
If you’re a fan, you’ll know Bell from a number of Tarantino films, including “Death Proof.” She’s usually the one who metes out swift, painful retribution to men who badly underestimate her capacity to crack spines. That’s pretty much the situation here.
Bell plays Avery Taggert, a cynical, war-weary photojournalist who, in 1985, is embedded with a band of freedom fighters taking medical supplies to a remote village. The group of mostly no-good-do-gooders is led by the deceptively jocular Guillermo (Nacho Vigalondo, director-writer of the Spanish “Timecrimes”).
When Guillermo asks his tag-along to exercise some discretion on the trip, she shrugs and tells him, “The camera sees what the camera sees.”
Of course the camera sees a lot more than it should, like the guerrilla leader fulfilling his real mission as drug cartel courier — and killing a kid who happens upon the transaction.
No sooner than the shutter snaps shut, Guillermo and his band are in hot pursuit.
Directed by Josh C. Waller, who teamed with Bell on “Raze,” about an underground gladiatorial arena, “Camino” — shot in Hawaii and Mexico — should satisfy its target audience, which takes its action straight, with little plot, less character development. Indeed, this new thriller quickly settles down to become an extended chase through the jungle, interrupted (darn!) by hallucinations and flashbacks to happier times. The six in pursuit are quickly whittled down, thanks to both to Taggert’s surprising martial arts skills and Guillermo’s increasingly batty demeanor.
Catfight aficionados will be glad to hear the bloodied-but-not-bowed Bell goes one-on-one with Guillermo’s tigress girlfriend, and makes out just fine. Purrr.
CAMINO ✮✮ With Zoë Bell, Nacho Vigalondo, Kevin Pollak. Directed by Josh C. Waller; scripted by Daniel Noah. 103 min. Unrated (would be R for violence)
Lovell is a nationally known critic who has been published in Variety, THR, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Miami Herald and SJ Mercury, where he served as film critic from 1983-2006.