Four and a half minutes into “Panama,” a spy games/Contra War thriller set just before the U.S. invasion of Noriegaland in 1989, I’m thinking “JAYZUS, that’s a lot of producer credits.”
It seems like a hundred (only 30something) of these folks, and not just the actors and their relatives, are packed into this drawn-out introduction. And then one remembers, “Ah, it’s a Mel Gibson movie.” He may not be “canceled,” but you’ve got to spread the risk around, I guess.
Because “Panama” is the worst of the B and C movies Gibson’s made during his years in the Anti Semite Wilderness. About the best thing you can say on the Oscar winner’s behalf is that he’s barely in it — an introductory scene or two, a couple of scenes at the end, and lots of grizzled tough-guy voice-over narration by Our Man Mel.
“Nothing’s more rock’n roll than takin’ out the bad guys for the ol” Red, White and Blue!”
Gibson’s a U.S. operative who lures grieving widower Becker (Cole Hauser) back to work with orders to go to Panama, interact with the assorted drug runners, arms dealers, Panamanian hustlers and suppliers for the Nicaraguan “Contra” revolutionaries in an effort to secure a Russian helicopter for…somebody.
“You need a purpose, I got one for you.”
“Mission creep” on this assignment involves hanging out with the high-placed, drug-snorting womanizing low-life (Mauricio Hénao) who has access to the chopper, and cocaine, a pal with a casino and scores of swimsuits models.
That one who looks like a former Miss Universe contestant? That’s Camila (Miss Universe Puerto Rico, Kiara Liz Ortega). “She’s dangerous.”
So is accompanying some commando commander named Steadman Fagoth Müller (Julio Ramos Velez) into the jungle, wiping out Sandanistas, “no prisoners” style.
“I thought you Americans hated Bolsheviks?”
But that chopper, to be swapped for a million dollar bag of cash, that has everybody Becker meets in between sex scenes with the former Miss Universe-Puerto Rico, shoot-out (not often) or chase scenes saying “later” or “mañana.”
Hauser, a handsome second lead for his entire career who has now found a home on TV’s “Yellowstone,” doesn’t give us much to hang onto here except a growing appreciation of his dye job.
Gibson shows up just to add a splash of color and swagger to what seems like an endless wait between action beats. A pointless dirt bike race through the muddy jungle impresses no one and barely advances the plot.
But director Mark Nevldine (“Crank” was his high water mark) stages a bracing foot chase through Puerto Rico’s imitation Panama City.
Aside from that? “Gibson’s worst movie” about covers it, until the next contender comes along.
Rating: R for violence, sexual content, nudity, drug use and language
Cast: Cole Hauser, Kiara Liz, Mauricio Hénao, Julio Ramos Velez Kate Katzman, Hank Weber and Mel Gibson
Credits: Directed by Mark Neveldine, scripted by Daniel Adams and William Barber. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:35