I’ve seen Hostel, and Turistas is no Hostel. Hostel at least has the courage of its convictions to be as gory as it wanted to be and allowed the audience to take a pure visceral joy in seeing selfish, horn-dog American boys be tortured for the pleasure of selfish, spoiled rich bastards. Come to think of it, you aren’t sure who to root for in Hostel, unlike Turistas, which tries to make you care for the loose collection of stereotypes that it’s passing off as characters.
It starts with a not-so-pleasant drive through the back roads of Brazil as a speed-happy bus driver roles his bus over a cliff (thus tying him for the worst-driver-ever award with the taxi driver from Ghost Dad). Everyone survives, but they’re stranded for ten hours, waiting for the next bus. Three Americans (Josh Duhamel, Olivia Wilde, and Beau Garrett), two Britons (Desmond Askew, Max Brown) and an Aussie (Melissa George) decide to stick together and find a pristine beach with convenient beach-side bar where they can kill some time. Unfortunately for them, there’s treachery afoot and they wake up on the beach the next morning with nothing but the clothes on their back. A Brazilian friend (Agles Steib) brings them to his “uncle’s” house where they can rest and recoup, but obviously there’s some next-level stuff about to go down.
I’m going to go ahead and blow the “twist” because it’s part of the grander problem with the movie. Foreign tourists are being rounded up by this street gang so that they can harvest the organs of the hapless turistas and sell them to those in need. The “uncle” is the sociopathic ring leader of the crew who thinks he’s doing some sort of cosmic balancing by violating foreigners. Yes, the accusations are true: the stereotypes abound in Turistas. While this was the first American film to be completely filmed in Brazil, the base message of the film is “Don’t go to Brazil.” Because in Brazil, organ harvesting gangs are rampant, you can’t trust the natives, and the women will sleep with you and rip you off; you can’t even ride on a bus without taking your life into your own hands, and you can catch Hepatitis from the water. (Although to be fair there’s a decent chance of that last one.)
Although the screenwriters in a rare stoke of intelligence include a character that can speak the language (Portuguese, not Spanish), there’s absolutely nothing redeemable about the others. The two American girls are just looking for a good time, as are the two Brits but with a decidedly specific bend to their carnal desires, and if someone could explain to me the appeal of Josh Duhamel, I’d appreciate it because that dude is as bland as a glass of non-Hepatitis water.
The only time director John Stockwell ever shows a little flare is whenever there’s a girl in a bikini on screen or an underwater shot; coincidently, the two things his last movie Into The Blue was all about. There’s nothing redeemable about this movie, even the climactic chase is a poorly edited, poorly shot affair. It takes place in an underwater cave system which creates a number of problems all of which add up to an impossible-to-follow action scene. In fact, it’s safe to say that if it weren’t for me trying to figure out what was going on I’d have been completely disengaged from the finale, period.