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With: Amber Heard, Karl Urban, Odette Yustman, Gia Mantegna, Adriana Barraza, C�sar Vianco, Michel Noher, Luis Sabatini, Javier Luna, Andrea Verdun, Matias Paz Conde, Hugo Miranda, Maria Salome Cari, Jorge Booth, Esteban Pastrana
Written by: Jennifer Derwingson, Marcos Efron, based on a screenplay by Brian Clemens, Terry Nation
Directed by: Marcos Efron
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and brief torture
Running Time: 91
Date: 12/17/2010

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Friends 4-Severed

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Marcos Efron's And Soon the Darkness is a remake of a 1970 British exploitation film, but I didn't have to go back that far to find influences. There's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, with the blond and brunette American girls traveling abroad (one is promiscuous and the other is reserved). And there's Brokedown Palace, in which two American girls travel abroad and get arrested. All of which is to say that this new movie just isn't all that surprising or involving.

Odette Yustman stars as Ellie, the playful one, and Amber Heard (who also co-produced) plays Stephanie, the practical one. The girls are on a bike tour in Argentina, and have deliberately strayed from their group. On their last night, they go to a bar, and Ellie picks up a guy. Their flirting turns rough, and Ellie retreats, leaving him hanging. A mysterious, and serious, stranger, Michael (Karl Urban), steps in to help. In the morning, the girls miss their bus. They fight and split up. By the time they are ready to make up, it's too late: Ellie is gone. Stephanie must decide whether to trust the stranger to help find her friend before it's too late, before she is sold as a sex slave.

I admit that I watched this movie for the promise of seeing the gorgeous combination Yustman and Heard in all their Blu-Ray glory. It seems as if Efron was into the same idea; he photographs the stars with respect and awe. They're beautiful, but only at a distance. And the movie isn't brave enough to veer into pure exploitation, wherein it would get a little closer for a really good look. By comparison, Heard was better used in more extreme movies like The Informers, Pineapple Express and Zombieland (and, hopefully, the upcoming Drive Angry) and Yustman was better in Cloverfield.

With these kind of distant, half-formed characters, it follows that the drama and suspense don't really spark. And even the most visceral scenes, such as Stephanie sneaking up behind the kidnapper, fall apart because of the "why don't they just" factor; the characters never seem to do the most obvious or helpful thing. But perhaps the worst thing is that this movie falls right in the middle of absolutely everything. It's too timid to be exploitation, and too ridiculous to say anything serious about the South American sex slave trade. It's too routine to be suspenseful, and it has a sexy cast, but it's not sexy. Mostly, it's not much fun.

Anchor Bay released the Blu-Ray. It comes with a filmmaker commentary track, deleted scenes, a director's video diary and trailers.

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