The Burning, film review: Epic drama makes evocative and dramatic use of jungle settings

(15) Pablo Fendrik, 101 mins. Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alice Braga
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There is a hint of Sam Peckinpah in this very bloody epic drama, set deep in the Argentine rainforest. Mercenaries will murder and maim smallholders whose properties they want to requisition. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Kai, a mysterious loner who intervenes when the beautiful Vania (Alice Braga) is kidnapped after her father is killed.

Director Pablo Fendrik makes evocative and dramatic use of his jungle settings. There are lots of sweaty close-ups of the mercenaries, who themselves become the hunted as Kai pursues them.

The violence is graphic – we see characters shot, run through with spears and attacked with machetes – but it is always counter-balanced by lyricism.

Occasionally, for example when Kai is fleeing on a boat as the mercenaries shoot at him and somehow contrive to miss him, the film feels as far-fetched as a kids' cowboy story. The symbolism, especially when the leopard is on hand, is sometimes heavy-handed, and the final-reel shootout is staged slowly and laboriously.

Generally, though, the film combines action and social comment (about the destruction of the rainforest) in deft enough fashion.