Released By: Blairwood Entertainment
Released On: December 09, 2014
Director: Camilo Vila
Cast: John Robinson, Michael DeLorenzo, Alex Meraz
Despite the fact that pre-democratic Lima, Peru has some serious flaws, everything seems awesome for Wayne Montgomery; he has a decent job as a teacher, plenty of chances to catch some tasty waves at the local beaches, and a nice-looking Latin Lady on his arm. With a pleasant forecast on the horizon involving the country's first democratic elections, it looks like Lima is going to be a swell place to be, rolling into the 80's.
Unfortunately for Wayne, a mixup with his work visa places him in Lima's immigration offices, an appointment that ends rather suddenly with him being led from the building by some intense-looking characters who chat back and forth to each other in menacing tones while brandishing firearms. Panicking, Wayne jumps out of the car and runs for his life, only to be quickly taken down...receiving a broken foot in the process. Adding insult to injury, Wayne's next stop is the El Sexto prison, a notoriously violent institution known more for corruption than rehabilitation.
With his naive sense of entitlement, Wayne believes that a representative from the American Embassy can whisk him out of his new-found hell, but instead finds out that he's being charged with possession of a large amount of cocaine and resisting arrest. With lawyers and prison officials more interested in the money that this young man's family can provide, Wayne comes to the understanding that the justice he's waiting for may never arrive, and that he's more likely to suffer an unfortunate mishap at the hands of his captors or one of his fellow inmates.
Based on the real-life experiences of Monty Fisher (who wrote the film), 186 Dollars to Freedom isn't the first film to examine the series of unfortunate events that befall strange men in strange lands, but it does have an interesting tale to tell. The problem here is that as compelling as the tale may be, the execution found within is severely lacking. Director Camilo Vila does get a few things right; the opening of the film showing the political turmoil of Lima and the chase through the streets have a visceral quality that the rest of the film doesn't come close to, and the prison itself and even a few of its inmates pose a very ominous threat. But those threats pale in comparison to an external force that destroys any potential the film may have had.
No, I'm not speaking of the clunkiness of the editing, or the haphazard insertion of some brutal scoring during scenes which would be better left alone; nor am I referring to the multiple flashbacks that insist on popping up throughout the running time, completely throwing off any atmosphere and energy that the film may have going for it at that time. Fisher and Vila do make mention in the commentary that the opening act was chopped to bring the film down from an almost 3 hour running time, and that they preserved some of that opening through flashbacks. And it can almost be overlooked that even though Wayne's broken foot does cause him issues here and there during the film, it magically disappears when he's walking through the prison yard, or when he teaches the other inmates to wrestle.
No, the biggest issue with this film is casting, specifically in the lead. John Robinson, who some may remember as the weak link in Lords of Dogtown, once again proves his inability to do anything other than ride a surfboard and grow his hair, and focusing on his Keanu-range of acting expressions for an hour and forty minutes definitely highlights that. Shifting between two speeds, stunned lobotomized silence and high school improvised anger, Robinson spits out dialogue like it's stuck inside his mouth, with a lack of corresponding emotional expression to accompany it. His interaction with another prisoner, in which Wayne is supposed to be tricking him into giving up his country of origin is painful to watch and most definitely would've ended in death had it gone down as such in real life.
With all due respect to Mr. Fisher, and with no wish to make light of what was certainly a horrible experience in a horrible place, this acting throws any wish to sympathize with the plight of the protagonist straight out of the window; and with such a shaky scaffold supporting the rest of 186 Dollars To Freedom, it ends up as a collapsed waste of 100 minutes that you'll never get back.
Blairwood Entertainment brings 186 Dollars To Freedom to DVD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that needs some work. While the brighter outdoor scenes and some of the interior shots come through okay, there are other scenes, darker ones, that display a surprising amount of artifacting, shimmering and other ugliness. Thankfully, there aren't too many, but there are enough that it's noticeable and distracting. Aside from that, the colours look okay for the most part, and detail is good.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track fares better, with dialogue consistently clear. The score is intrusive when it shows up, however, but the rest of the soundtrack is well balanced without excessive use of the surrounds. No hisses, pops, clicks, or other issues seemed to be present.
There are a few extras to be found on the disc as well. First up is a commentary with Director Camilo Vila and Writer Monty Fisher. Despite the fact that it sounds like it was recorded in an oil drum, the two have plenty of information to share about the film, and anyone interested should check it out.
Some Deleted Scenes (8:16) are also available, though they don't add much to the story, and for some reason suffer from a sub-par resolution.
Original Casting (22:31) contains the casting tapes for the film.
Storyboards, Production Stills, a Trailer and a Promo Reel for Four Fish Films are also included.
The Final Word:
Being thrown into a foreign prison has got to be terrifying as all hell. This film, however, does nothing to capture that terror. Avoid.