Movie Review: How the drug mobs roll in the Dominican Republic — “Narco Soldiers”

Our narrator tells the sad story of the Dominican Republic, “battleground island” of the Caribbean, a place where starting with “the Italian, Columbus” “outsiders” have always come in and exploited and bossed around the people.

Spanish conquistadors to British and French pirates, to say nothing of the gringos from the north, all have “taken from us.” And now, it’s the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels who are “our new foreign masters.”

Doggone it, why can’t the D-R have its own home-grown cartel?

That’s the premise of “Narco Soldiers,” a dull, derivative B-movie (in English) that sets up the Big Game of the Caribbean — playing drug cartels off against one another, getting seed money to go into business on their own, taking out the last of their rivals on their own.

Danny (Rafael Amaya) is the one who’s worked his way up Don Toribio’s (Ricardo Chavira) ladder, who learned the business — who to trust, what to do with those he doesn’t trust — in Miami and Puerto Rico, studying under The Sarge (Roger Cross). His buddy Teo (Octavio Pizano) is “the strategist,” the one who could make Don Toribio the Kingpin of Santo Domingo.

But remember that narrator. It is Teo’s “yacht club” girlfriend, the bombshell Marisela (Carolina Guerra) who is the real brains of this outfit — the one with cutthroat ambition and a thing about national pride that drives her, and them, to take over “instead of just being the middle men” in a very lucrative, if illegal, lethal and socially-destructive business.

It’s a tale of a love triangle, double-crosses, threats and bribes and bullet-riddled ambushes, extravagant villains and amoral “heroes.” And through it all, Marisela tells us how it’s all going to go down.

“How to start an international gang war in three easy steps,” Ms. Exposition explains.

And there’s nothing here we’ve seen before done better, a “Scarface” saga with leads and a director who can’t do anything fresh with the violence and bring little heat to their performances in the clinches, or delivering pro forma dialogue.

“Do NOT let me down again!”

Three screenwriters took a pass at this, and they got all wrapped up in exposition — upping the ante in the shootouts (yawn), the “How to’s” of the drug trade, stuff we’ve seen (and heard) in scores of earlier films. “Blow” was a favorite of mine, similarly-narrated, only much better.

“What determines the price of a drug? Location, location LOCATION.”

One thing that would have made a big difference in this nationalistic Dominican Republic drug trade picture would have been to film it in Spanish. That wouldn’t help the generic story and stock characters, but it would have given it an authenticity it lacks, first line to last.

MPAA Rating: unrated, bloody gun violence, drug subject matter, sex, profanity

Cast: Rafael Amaya, Carolina Guerra, Ricardo Chavira, Octavio Pizano, Cody Kasch, J. Eddie Martinez and Roger Cross.

Credits: Directed by Felix Limardo, script by Jesse Wheeler, Huchi Lora and Rafael Villalona. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:39

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