Regardless of your expectations of it, I don’t see how “Turistas” can fail to disappoint you. You’re in the mood for some torture porn, a la “Saw” or “Hostel”? Surprise! There isn’t any! You get one scene — ONE SCENE! — of someone being hacked up, and even then, the victim is under anesthesia and the hacking is done antiseptically, even medically.
So maybe instead you’re hoping for a taut psychological thriller, comparable to “Deliverance,” where the actual violence is minimal but the tension is high? Surprise! It fails there, too. The characters are (as they almost always are in these films) one-dimensional stereotypes whose only motivations are to have sex and to avoid being killed. And wouldn’t you know it, most of them fail at that, too.
The film is set in Brazil and was shot on location by director John Stockwell, whose “Blue Crush” and “Into the Blue” also made use of beautiful locations and actors who refuse to wear anything but bathing suits. “Turistas” is infused with Brazilian sights and sounds — the beaches, the music, the friendly people — and actually made me want to go there. Apart from all the killing and the general message of “Never trust a foreigner,” it would make a good travel brochure.
Our heroes are six young people — three Americans, two Brits and an Australian — who have come to Brazil in search of drinking, recreation, and indiscriminate sexual encounters. An American girl (Olivia Wilde) is chaperoned by her worry-wart brother (Josh Duhamel) and accompanied by her trashy best friend (Beau Garrett); the Australian (Melissa George) is a world traveler who speaks fluent Portuguese; the Brits (Max Brown and Desmond Askew) are randy fellows who just want to meet girls.
A bus accident leaves the six stranded, but they join forces and wander onto a hidden beach that evidently isn’t all that hidden after all, since it has a fully stocked bar and raging nightly parties. Then somehow they eventually wind up in a crazy house where crazy people want to do crazy things to them.
I’m skipping a lot, but believe me, you’ll wish the movie had skipped a lot, too. The film’s very first images are a flash-forward to much later, when a female victim is strapped down and apparently about to be eviscerated. It is 60 minutes before the movie actually arrives at that point in the narrative, giving us a full hour to endure the tourists partying, talking, flirting with each other, passing out, arguing, walking, being lost, and taking their shirts off. It’s a 95-minute movie in which 50 minutes are padding.
The screenplay (by previously uncredited writer Michael Ross) further errs by including scenes with the villains as they plot to abduct the tourists. By giving the audience information that the main characters aren’t privy to, much of the mystery and suspense is lost. It would be better if we had no idea what was in store, rather than being teased with it. This is especially true since what we’re teased with — rampant bloody mayhem and terror — never actually materializes.
The movie is what it is. The question is, is it good at being what it is? And the answer is no. I never thought I’d complain that a movie wasn’t violent and awful enough, but when a film sets out to be violent and awful, it really ought to follow through.
D (1 hr., 35 min.; )