After being subjected to both Christmas at Maxwell’s and The Nativity Story, I figured that a movie where a bunch of pretty B-list actors get carved up by a mad — or at least extremely annoyed — surgeon might be a nice break. I hadn’t reckoned on the incompetence of director John Stockwell. Having spent more time underwater than Esther Williams — helming Blue Crush (2002) and Into the Blue (2005) — Stockwell seems to be suffering from water on the brain. I can think of no other explanation for the stunning awfulness and ineptitude on display in Turistas, a movie that aims to do for Brazilian tourism what the similarly themed Hostel (2005) did for Slovakia.
Of course, he has help from the screenplay by first-time perpetrator Michael Arlen. This is strictly “Teenagers as Meat on the Hoof 101″ stuff (does anyone really believe that the girl who shows off her breasts will make it to the final reel?) — only more idiotic than usual. The concept is serviceable enough, if not exactly high in believability. I might buy the idea that a spectacularly unhinged medico, Dr. Zamora (Miguel Lunardi, Benjamin), believes he can punish Western civilization for its crimes against Brazil by kidnapping unlikable tourists and vivisecting them. At the same time, I have a little trouble believing he can walk into a hospital in Rio de Janeiro sporting eight livers and 16 kidneys for transplant and have no one question the source.
It hardly matters, I suppose, since Zamora has employed the most inept henchmen since Larry, Moe and Curly — the concept of bringing the victims in alive (or at all) seems lost on them. Even before he arrives on the surgical scene, his ace crew has managed to reduce the unwilling organ donors’ potential contributions to six livers and 12 kidneys. Perhaps good help in the Brazilian jungle is hard to find. And even this hardly matters either, since he only manages to harvest one set of organs before things go awry (some mastermind madman this is).
Zamora’s ineptitude significantly reduces the movie’s bid for a place in the Hostel “torture porn” sweepstakes, which might be a good thing if there were anything but rampant stupidity to take its place. Alas, what we have instead is a good deal of badly exposed footage of people running around in the dark and an extended underwater (Stockwell’s auteurist signature) chase beneath a series of not-very-secret secret caves. It all adds up to a film in which the real victim is the hapless viewer. Heed the ad campaign and “Go home.” Rated R for strong graphic violence and disturbing content, sexuality, nudity, drug use and language.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke