Desierto full movie review - Desierto: Mexicans chased by a maniac with a rifle, over, and over, and over again
Although there are some good (technical) elements in this film, such as the camera work, the music score, and the production design; the screenplay is so bland and apathetic that it makes the film feel like a tragic waste of a nice concept.
First of all, if you've seen the trailer to Desierto, then you've pretty much seen the film. Nothing much happens aside of what you see in the trailer: a psychotic madman spots some illegal Mexicans attempting to cross the border into the U.S. and he decides to take matters into his own hands, by killing them all with his rifle. This pretty much happens within the first 15 minutes of the film, so no spoilers there. What might feel like somewhat of an anti-climactic spoiler is that THAT IS IT -- Nothing more happens in the film.
If you expect some kind of explanation to the villain's motivation to kill the Mexicans, there is none. If you think that at least there is an interesting story behind some of the illegals that are trying to reach U.S. soil, nope, sorry, you won't get an interesting story there either.
Instead, what the script does is basically repeat itself: once the first shootout takes place, we're left with 5 characters the villain still has to chase after. Then, the villain's dog takes care of murdering one of the 5 left (quite easily and without much struggle from the poor Mexican fellow, I might add), which leaves 4. Some more hunting goes on and the 4th guy dies, victim of another gunshot by the merciless, yet unexplained murderer. And then there were three...
And guess what happens next? More story? A nice chunk of juicy background to shed some light on who our characters are? -- Nope. The villain's dog takes his second victim. And just when we have two victims left (Gael Garcia is one of them, of course), the killer mastermind and his evil pet decide to call it a day: "Come on Tracker, we'll get them tomorrow..." (sorry but: WHAAAT?!?!?)
Anyway, moving on: our two victims exchange some words before nightfall in the middle of nowhere (in the desert, of course). That's when I thought to myself: "Yes, finally, some interesting facts about our characters so that I can actually care if they live or die... right?" -- Wrong... Unfortunately this conversation reveals just about as much information as a "small talk encounter at a super-market" would reveal about them. And suddenly, hey, IT'S DAYTIME AGAIN!
But wait, where did they sleep? What did they use for shelter? Isn't it supposed to be like super cold at night in the desert? -- Huh... guess that doesn't matter...
Morning arrives and our only two unharmed victims wander around the desert attempting desperately to find help, and... you guessed it, story starts all over again, and the maniac with the rifle and his demonic dog start tracking them, AGAIN, even though they had already tracked them the day before, but got too tired to finish the job, which (if they had finished it) would have also made the film a short film.
And so, the suspense moments of the piece have its highs and lows, some feel so ridiculously low that people at the theater started laughing (can't blame them). There is one sequence in particular in which Gael is attempting to get away from the killer by going round and round a gigantic rock. Both characters chase one another around this rock for what feels like an eternity, until Gael finally remembers his childhood (I'm venturing a guess here) and he stops, and climbs the rock so the killer can get past him, and Gael can now become the chaser... Can't even begin to express what a waste of time that sequence was.
All in all, a lazy script which has a promising and gripping high concept idea, but which fails to engage, and therefore ends up being nothing more than that: a concept. It would have made a nice 20 or 30-minute short film, but because it doesn't go deeper, the narrative has to repeat over and over until we get tired of it and it becomes numbingly boring.
And yet, the film has made its way through Toronto, London, and now Cannes -- Huh... I wonder why that is... probably has nothing to do with the fact that it was written, produced, directed, and edited by Alfonso Cuaron's son...