Jonas Cuaron’s (son of The Revenant director Alfonso Cuaron) Desierto (Desert) was shot in 2015, released in theaters in 2016 and now has made its way DVD and On Demand. It came and went quickly in theaters, despite receiving sixty percent positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. While it has moments of tension, Desierto is a nasty and mean-spirited thriller that falls flat because the characters are without any dimensions at all, so their actions and reactions were meaningless to me. Oh I understand the underlining message of the film, but at the end of the day, I did not care.
The film’s premise is pretty simple. Immigrants seek to enter the United States illegally and a white racist psychopath and his trusty dog named, Tracker, hunt them down and kill them, one by one. Jeffery Dean Morgan is the killer, here, playing a piece of garbage, Sam. He is not given any motivation or reason as to why he does what he does. He just loves to kill immigrants, I guess. The last two that he and tracker are stalking are Moises (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Adela (Alondra Hidalgo). We know very little about Moises, except that he has broken into the country at least once and been deported. He has a son that he has promised he would return to and he never breaks a promise. All we know about Adela is that her parents have paid the Coyote’s (people who specialize in getting immigrants into America for a hefty price) to make sure she arrives safely in the United States. They have even supplied her journey with a man who tries to assault her sexually before Moises intervenes. That is all we get for character development.
When the immigrant’s truck breaks down, the group is split up and plan to traverse through what they Coyote’s call, the Badlands. It is dangerous enough without being shot at, so when Sam shows up with his trusty dog and rifle, the situation goes from bad to worse. Harried and harassed across the desert, the groups are picked off one at a time until it is just Moises and Adela. I have ruined nothing by telling it ends up with just these two because it all happens within the first twenty minutes or so. Believe me, the script penned by Jonas Cuaron and Mateo Garcia, has such thinly defined characters you probably won’t care, anyway. I know I didn’t. Desierto is structured as a film merely to show depravity just for depravities sake. If Cuaron and Garcia had spent some more time giving these characters some depth and context, they might have had something here.
The acting is sufficient, the cinematography by Damian Garcia is stunning and a good score by Woodkid (Yoanne Lemoine) are about all that I was interested in for Desierto. Because they have underdeveloped these characters, there is not much for the viewer to grasp onto or to care about. What is left is a mindless action film and we have seen plenty of those. Buried somewhere in Desierto there is a political message and it is not a nice one, either. Cuaron is able to garner some tension in certain scenes, especially when the three characters stumble into a pit filled with Rattlesnakes, but this film is in such a hurry to throw more action at the screen that it suffocates these characters who are all dressed up with nowhere to go. Maybe there is a film to be made like Desierto, but this not the one.
Desierto – ** out of 5
Desierto – Rated R for language and graphic violence
Desierto – Run Time is 87 minutes
Desierto is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services.