Directed by Mel Gibson.
Written by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia.
Starring...well, a bunch of rookies.
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 12/19/06
I won't lie--I was nervous about "Apocalypto",
not because of bad Mel Gibson press or any bad reviews or one of the
worst movie titles of our time...no, I was worried because the
entire movie was done in some old Mayan dialect and had a trailer
that just screamed "not so much, not so much" (using the Borat
voice). So, even though Mel has made a couple of pretty
powerful movies ("Braveheart" and
Passion of the Christ"), this one looked like a mistake.
But, I was so curious about the movie that I
had to see it...and, I'll tell you what, the man has some pretty
serious talent! Set in a time long ago, the story follows
Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) as he and his village members are
living a quiet, peaceful life in the middle of nowhere when a group
of fanatical savages shows up one day, burns Jag's entire village to
the group, leaves a number of children to die on their own, kills a
number of Jag's family members and others who get in the savages'
way, and then take about 30 of the surviving villagers hostage and
walk them like slaves all the way back to their home temple, at
which point a lot of people get it bad on a sacrificial altar before
Jaguar just up and says enough is enough!
There's more to it than this, but that is
the basic plot overview. And, even though it sounds really
simple, Gibson gives the film a feel of timelessness that wasn't
lost on me even as I watched guys get stabbed, burned, beheaded,
de-hearted, maimed and mentally abused all movie long. The
film's violence certainly is worth noting, but the simple trek
nature of the movie (about half the film is Jaguar's slavery) is
fantastic and, once Jaguar figures out a way to take on his captors,
the action/"Rambo: First Blood, Part II" elements of the final
half-hour are just plain fun to watch, because there's not much
surprise in watching Jag dismantle the baddies one by one. We
also get to watch Jag's wife and little boy struggle all movie long
in a deep pit, since they were hiding when the whole freakin'
village was torched by Evil.
Using actors that you've never heard of is
quite helpful in "Apocalypto"; it speaks further to the point that
it doesn't really matter who these people are, just to know that
they are the oppressed and that the oppressors could give two shits
about the peaceful villagers' well being. It's a classic story
of The Man vs. The People, and even with superior numbers you know
that The Man is goin' down, baby! But, I loved whoever the guy
was that played the leader of the savages; he's cut like a fucking
rock but he has that gentle giant/don't fuck with me dichotomy which
works brilliantly in this movie. When he admonishes an
underling for not following his orders, all you have to do is look
at the veins popping in his neck to know that if you fuck with this
guy, it's lights out. Alternate, the underlings are just
distinct enough to tell that they are different, and because movies
like this require a second-in-command baddie, the one we get here is
a ruthless bastard who--by killing Jag's father in the opening
minutes of the film--you just know has his shit coming to him late
in this puppy.
The scenery is lush and "Apocalypto" is a
very good-looking film; special effects look great and chase
sequences and fight scenes are very well done. I still think
that with "The Passion" and this film, Mel could use a better
editor, but what is here is still mostly relevant to what's
happening and at least this film is better paced than Mel's most
recent directorial effort. There is almost too little dialogue
in this film; I felt there could have been more dramatic buildup to
the sacrificial sequence by giving us more bits of conversation
between the enslaved members of the village gang. Some of the
bad guys characters are too one-note (hell, those that actually seem
to be running the beheadings are actually no-note characters) and
even a little backstory would have been nice for a layman like
But, no matter. What's here is great
and "Apocalypto" is a well-conceived curiosity worth investigating.
That is, IF you are cool with watching guys having their hearts
pulled out while they are still alive.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard