Camino takes its cues from the cinema of the 1980s. It’s like a movie written by James Cameron based on a story by Peter Weir and directed by John McTiernan. That story, about a photojournalist who has to fight for her own survival after she is assigned to follow a band of revolutionaries through the Colombian jungle as they attempt to mount a popular uprising among the Colombian people, serves primarily as a skeleton on which to hang a series of action scenes in which said photojournalist engages in kill-or-be-killed fights with said revolutionaries. The star of Camino is famed stuntwoman Zoë Bell, so the film’s structure plays to her strengths, but it does little to serve the rest of the cast, the setting, or the situation in which they all find themselves.
There are action movies that manage to be thrilling as well as complicated. 2015’s ’71 comes to mind, in which both a pursued soldier and the gangsters chasing him are all given enough space to both battle and to become fully-fleshed out, interesting characters. Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is another recent example—this time with another action-forward female lead—in which characters are developed in the fight scenes instead of made simpler. Raid 2 is almost credits-to-credits action, but the story world is also impossibly complex. Every character is a world unto themselves. Camino is certainly thrilling, and Zoë Bell is impressive in it, but I wished for more complexity in the characters and in the movie’s themes.
The characters and the world certainly deserve it. Anytime a group of white, Western filmmakers attempt to depict people from developing nations, they ought to be especially careful to depict them with as much complexity as possible. Too often, non-white, non-Western peoples are used to develop white characters and add pathos to a film. Camino at least gives the native Colombians the final, explicit victory over the film’s villains, but the ultimate philosophical victory, the victory we’re meant to root for throughout the movie, is given to our white, Western protagonist. It’s her story; not theirs, not really, and the Colombians are all either poor, put-upon, or psychotic.
I like a thrilling time at the movies as much as the next person, but I like my action-heavy fight films to be set in alternate movie-worlds, like McTiernan’s Predator, Cameron’s Aliens, or Soderbergh’s Haywire. If they’re going to be set in the “real” world, I like them to have a conscience, like Demange’s ’71, Joffe’s The Killing Fields and The Mission, or Weir’s The Year of Living Dangerously (admittedly, Joffe and Weir’s films aren’t exactly “fight films”). People, especially those depicted as oppressed, deserve it.
Camino is being featured in the 38th annual Denver Film Festival. More information about the film and showtimes can be found here.