Owen Gleiberman
November 29, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST


Current Status
In Season
89 minutes
Wide Release Date
Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde
John Stockwell
Fox Atomic

We gave it a C-

Would you believe it if I said that the fearsome homicidal baddie in Turistas is the most humane and morally responsible person in the movie? Stranded by a bus accident during a humdinger of a party-hearty vacation in Brazil, a group of young revelers, played by pretty ciphers like Josh Duhamel and Melissa George in the usual wisps of clothing, find a bar on a beach, where they drink, dance, and wake up to discover they’ve been drugged and robbed. What they don’t realize is that they’re the prey of Zamora (Miguel Lunardi), a surgeon in a righteous huff over the parasitical underground market for vital organs in countries like his own. Once the fresh-meat tourists have been lured to his rain-forest lair, he decides on a cornrowed Aussie baby doll and, as she lies naked, removes her liver. As he explains during the procedure, he plans to ship the organ to a hospital in Rio, where, for once, it can be transplanted into the body of a needy, impoverished Brazilian.

This guy, in other words, is Leatherface meets Doctors Without Borders. The movie, with the exception of that lone squirmy surgery scene, is Hostel without sadism, thrills, or funky severed-limb F/X. It quickly turns into a very dull escape thriller. Turistas actually has a talented director, John Stockwell, who made Blue Crush and crazy/beautiful, but his attempt to humanize a genre that was long ago taken over by sniveling gore geeks results in a film that thinks it’s doing something it’s not: giving kids a ”message.” The only message they’ll receive is, Skip this one.

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