Camino is a new action/political thriller from Josh C. Waller (Raze) starring Zoe Bell. The Australian daredevil stars as Avery, a photojournalist that excels in documenting the human cost of war. Set in 1985, Camino finds bell traveling to Columbia during the power struggle between the government and the Medellian drug cartel during the height of Reagan’s “war on drugs.” Avery travels deep into the jungles of Columbia in order to document military missionary Guillermo, here played by living, breathing Fantastic Fest billboard Nacho Vigalondo. Guillermo delivers much needed medicine to the local villages caught in the crossfire between the cartels, the army and the CIA.
Yet behind his Robin Hood facade, Guillermo sports a sadistic streak and a thirst for real power. When Avery captures him committing a despicable act on camera, she finds herself in his and his militia units crosshairs. In possession of evidence that could ruin Guillermo, Bell’s photojournalist finds herself on the run. Thousands of miles from home, in order to survive she’ll need to use her wits, her strength and the natural environment of the jungle.
Camino marks director Josh C. Waller’s second pairing with stunt woman extraordinaire Zoe Bell, and he certainly knows how to highlight and maximize Bell’s presence on screen. Bell is so naturally talented that Waller doesn’t have to resort to the tricks of modern action movie editing. There’s no shaky camera footage or super quick edits to distract or hide subpar action. Instead, the viewer is treated to extended sequences of brutal hand to hand fighting and jungle combat. Bell brings a primal physicality to her role and when she’s operating at her peak, it’s not hard to see her as a sort of Rhonda Rousey type that can just dismantle her adversaries through peak conditioning and sheer force of will.
Waller also brings back one of the great 80’s action tropes that is missing from modern films: the hero getting their ass handed to them before mounting a desperate last ditch offensive and overcoming insurmountable odds. The first fight between Bell and one of the guerrilla soldiers finds her character getting pounded into mincemeat before a combination of her smarts and his underestimating her gives her the upper hand. It’s something we don’t see often enough in movies now, and Bell’s vulnerability adds another layer of depth to her character and drama to the film .
The real surprise of Camino is Vigalondo’s performance. The director of cult film favorites Time Crimes and Open Window exhibits a real charisma in front of the camera. The playful tone Vigalondo brings to his character lends him the air of a philosopher or poet rather than a hardened megalomaniac. It’s easy to see why he’d be hailed as a hero by the poor and why others would choose to follow in his footsteps. Vigalondo turns Guillermo into an intriguing, multilayered villain rather than a one note, mustache twirling caricature.
Fans of Bell’s work in Raze and Death Proof are going to find a lot to enjoy in Camino. Bell continues to grow as a performer, and Camino marks her best work to date. The combination of the stunning jungle location, three dimensional bad guys and Ms. Bell delivering full speed ahead action is too good to pass up.