Movie Review: Aussie Heads to “El Mariachi” Country, and hits a “Snag”

Ben Milliken the actor more or less holds his own as a seemingly unkillable bouncer, drug mule and factotum for another Mexican Reina del Sur in “Snag,” an indie thriller in the “El Mariachi” mold.

As a director and co-writer and probably overseer of the editing of this picture, he can’t get out of his own way.

It’s the story of a bloke the locals can’t stop calling “gringo,” even though he’s not a Norteamericano. Those who do grasp that he’s merely an Australian just label him “blanco,” which is somehow almost worse.

He came to Mexico on “business” some while back, fell in with the beautiful Valentina (Sofía Castro), who saved his arse in a Cantina brawl. But that just gets him further in Dutch with her mob queen mom (Jeanette Aguilar Harris).

Bullets fly and blood flows and it comes to pass that the mother is hiding the daughter from the not-actually-a-gringo. And by Jesús, this tyranny/blanco-blocking will not stand! 

Simple, lean little quest story, with pistolas and ametralladoras and brawls that get ugly and then turn out to be personal and good-natured.

“Good to see you too, man.”

Cute. But here’s where Milliken gets too cute and outsmarts himself. He’s broken the thin narrative into two timelines, “Then” and “Now.” “Then” tells us how he got here, first meetings with this character or that one. “Now” is his quest to get to the woman he loves.

As the movie progresses, it jumps back and forth in time so often it happens in mid-shootout, mid-meeting, watering down suspense, removing any sense of mystery and slowing things down no matter how fast the edits.

It’s a stupid, showy blunder. And it does this marginal script and uneven-in-skill-and-charisma cast no favors.

You’ve got torture scenes, shifting alliances and an old friend (Jaime Camil) maybe hired to deal with our hero telling us that “Honor is something you show up for.” You’ve got great locations, like a cantina in the literal middle of nowhere (New Mexico locations) that becomes the setting of the first furious brawl.

A running gag is the Man from Oz’s “I don’t understand Spanish.” But with a beautiful woman as his incentive, he’ll work on it.

“Im halfway through Rosetta Stone.”

“Who’s SHE?”

The title is a piece of fishing parlance, meaning that your baited hook didn’t go in the fish’s mouth, but “snagged” it in the back, a fin or something. “Cheating” is how some sportsfishermen (not in Alaska when I lived there) see it.

It doesn’t neatly line up with the theme and the story here. But with all the hired killers — “The Twins,” “The Reaper” — and other characters, not all of whom have an actual dramatic purpose, and all the cutting back and forth between “Then” and “Now,” it’s not like the title is the problem most desperately in need of correction, as far as “Snag” goes.

Not terrible, could have easily been better had our director, co-writer and star not tripped over all his many jobs along the way.

Rating: unrated, violence and lots of it

Cast: Ben Milliken, Sofía Castro, Jeanette Aguilar Harris, Jonny Beauchamp, Jaime Camil and
C.J. Perry Barnyashev

Credits: Directed by Ben Milliken, scripted by Brent Tarnol and Ben Milliken. A Paramount release.

Running time: 1:27


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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