I was definitely taken aback by this film. Not expecting anywhere near the tension created here, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Keifer Sutherland plays Banks, a killer-for-hire with a modus operandi of taking a girl, using her in a job he’s been hired to perform and then wasting her (usually in the desert). Following that he buries her with the weapon that killed whoever the hit was on. But, after he’s been in South America for several years (and therefore quiet), he’s back and the feds want him pretty bad. They’re tailing him closely even as he’s picked up his next ‘helper’ and is preparing her for a hit.
|"I didn’t get to go to some fancy school and wear a lot of corduroy!"|
However, all is not as it seems here, with a long list of agents following them as they head to Mexico to whack a bigshot poitician. In fact, after a time, it isn’t entirely apparent who’s even working for whom or who’s going to get out of this alive.
Building from humble beginnings and doing so cleverly, this film is like a wall being built. Brick by brick the tension builds until finally we aren’t sure what’s going to happen. Keifer Sutherland is comfortable in a similar role that he played before appearing in the recent thriller Phone Booth with Colin Farrell and he carries his brooding menace as convincingly as ever.
About the only real fault in the execution of this film is the character development which, it could be argued, has been practically ignored. No one really has a past other than that which relates to why they are where they are now, but for the most part this is okay as they are supporting cast. However, Keifer’s character could have sorely used some development as to why this Ivy League educated, philosophy spouting hired assassin does what he does when he seems to have such an antipathy to killing. It’s an emptiness that is never really resolved, however, although it is touched upon.
Still, the film itself is a fairly tense watch in which events are played mildly out of sequence to keep us in the dark until the final curtain. Well worth checking out for anyone who likes the surprise ending.
Everything is pretty sweet here. The picture quality is just off razor, but is entirely clear. The colour palette, being set in the desert, is naturally quite earthy with the usual brands of contrasting colour dropped in on character clothing to draw our attention. Flesh tones are all even and blacks are natural, but shadow detail is terrible. However, this appears quite deliberate as the moments of darkness are unusually deep and there’s nothing going on in them. Otherwise the 1.85:1 aspect ratio (with 16:9 enhancement) carries the film just fine.
While we have Dolby Digital 5.1 surround granted us, it doesn’t really do much by way of surround activity. The subwoofer too seems to sleep late and the two only ever really support the music. The dialogue is quite clear though, including Keifer’s predilection for mumbling at times, while the sound effects are all evenly synched. If anything the gunshots are a tad louder than the rest of the levels, but that could easily be construed as normal.
Music has been arranged by Richard Marvin and he utilises a lot of traditionally arid instruments in his scoring. By ‘arid’ I mean instruments we usually hear in desert scenarios; lone guitar, flamenco guitar, Mexican brass etc. The soundtrack is very nice though and works efficiently to enhance the action or tension accordingly. The build-up in the last 20 minutes is quite remarkable too and stood out as above average for me.
A surprisingly good thriller which will have you guessing until the end. Impressive performances from all, with notable mention going to Melora Walters who counters Keifer’s sullenness for most of the feature. A nice, slow-building tension permeates the film and builds perfectly to the well-timed ending.