“Sorry. I’m not that good at this kind of thing,” claims photojournalist Avery Taggert, accepting a prestigious plaque in the opening minutes of Camino. Giving speeches, she means, thrust under the spotlight. She’d much rather be scrabbling about in the undergrowth working her magic, snapping away.
Critics bent on slamming Zoe Bell, who plays Avery, could easily argue that the stuntwoman-first, actress-second isn’t that good at this kind of thing either, that one doesn’t send a stuntwoman into the rainforest to do an actor’s job. But they’d be missing the fact that this kind of thing mostly amounts to Bell being slapped around in the wilds of Colombia; she’s certainly well versed at taking a punch in the ribs, or a boot to the face.
In that regard, this Noah/Waller picture is neither taxing nor terribly potent.
Bell, who hails from New Zealand, is perhaps best known for playing herself in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, in which she spent most of her screen time strapped to the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger as it careened through the Texas countryside. She actually has more credits for acting than stunt work, although she’s rather blasé with that umlaut.
After accepting her Photojournalist of the Year award, Camino‘s wily protagonist is courted (by Kevin Pollak) to accompany a squad of shady missionaries led by a charismatic Spaniard known as El Guero (Nacho Vigalondo, a little hammy for my tastes) into the jungles of South America. There she captures an atrocity on film that puts her life in danger—cue running and jumping and bloody fisticuffs. While no Meryl Streep (and to be fair, Streep never doubled for Lucy Lawless in a Xena fight scene), Bell exudes a confident charisma. That scalene nose of hers certainly helps. The film is also assisted by a throbbing electronic score by Kreng, some deft and colorful transitions, and striking images courtesy still photographer Zoriah Miller that serve as Avery’s impressive portfolio.
As for the Camino of the title, Avery drives a bright blue model in a delightful, wordless scene. She smiles wryly, the sun streaming in through the windows, highlighting her killer profile. I guess Camino sounded more romantically Latin than Vanagon.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth