Sponsor

New Release Review - THE BURNING

A mysterious stranger comes to the aid of a young woman abducted by mercenaries.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Pablo Fendrik

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alice Braga, Chico Diaz




"Fendrik does a pretty good Sergio Leone imitation, but he walks a tightrope between homage and parody, particularly in a final shootout that, while expertly staged, drowns its spaghetti in a little too much sauce."



Once the bread and butter of Hollywood, the western genre is cinema's sleeping giant, lying dormant for the best part of four decades. We're seeing something of a mini revival recently though, with filmmakers bending the tropes of the western to their will, providing us with some fresh takes on the genre. We've seen a Danish perspective on the old west in The Salvation, a more traditional take in Slow West, and at the end of the year we'll have a second stab at the genre from Tarantino with The Hateful Eight. Argentina has proved fertile ground too, with Viggo Mortenson pulling a John Wayne in Jauja, and now Gael Garcia Bernal does his best Charles Bronson impersonation in The Burning.
In truth, it's more of a contemporary western, though we're never told just when the story takes place, and save for some clothing, it could be anytime in the last 100 years or so. But all the iconography is present in director Pablo Fendrik's film - a hero who barely utters a word, a meek at first love interest who ends up brandishing a rifle with the best of them, and the villainous onslaught of ruthless progress.
This progress comes in the form of the deforestation of the jungle, with a trio of sweaty, stubbly, sun-baked mercenaries forcing farmers off their land through violent means. One such farmer enlists the aid of Kai (Bernal), a mysterious young man who witnessed his own family fall victim, and vows to help others put up a fight. Kai is caught off guard however when the mercenaries attack at night, killing the farmer and making off with his daughter Vania (Braga). Freeing her, Kai finds himself and Vania hunted by the mercenaries, but the tables are quickly turned.
Everything from Shane to Once Upon a Time in the West is referenced along the way, but the film is so busy acknowledging its roots it fails to stand on its own merits. As you'd expect from a movie starring Bernal, there's a slight political subtext regarding land ownership, but John Sayles it ain't. Fendrik does a pretty good Sergio Leone imitation, but he walks a tightrope between homage and parody, particularly in a final shootout that, while expertly staged, drowns its spaghetti in a little too much sauce. Still, if you're a Western buff, there's enough here to appease you, but it's instantly forgettable.



discussion by