Some ideas sound great in a treatment but don’t turn out as smoothly in the execution while others sound terrible and turn out amazing. If you were to hear about an animated film in which LEGO figures band together try to stop an evil business tycoon, you’d likely laugh that idea out of the room only to be shocked when it spawns four films and countless merchandising. On the other hand, if you were to hear about a film in which a naïve hero ends up suffering from a severe case of mistaken identity in tropical Acapulco which forces the hero to step up and win the day – yeah, you’d expect a Brinks truck to roll up any moment. Unfortunately, the Guillermo Iván-directed Welcome to Acapulco falls into the former category as great ideas get piled onto each other until confusion and frustration are all that is left.
Video game designer Matt Booth (Michael Kingsbaker) and partner Jesse (Ron Dryan) are on the verge of launching their new first-person shooter (FPS) game. They just need to wow a group of publishers at a meeting in New Mexico and the deal is done. While waiting for his flight, Matt runs into his old friend Tony Woods (Bradley Gregg) at the airport bar and the two catch-up over drinks. One drink becomes several and the next thing Matt knows, he’s on a plane touching down in Acapulco. Hungover and desperate to get to New Mexico, Matt doesn’t think things could get worse until bullets start flying as the Feds, C.I.A., mercenaries, and others want him for the package he brought into the country. The only thing keeping him alive is the mysterious Adriana (Ana Serradilla), a woman with an agenda of her own.
As soon as Acapulco begins, rock music blares as helicopters, cars, and armed soldiers chase a bespectacled man as he runs through the streets of a tropical paradise. With all of this happening, a voiceover starts to set the stage until the man gets shot and falls toward his death. That’s when the person talking is revealed to be the man who got shot and the audience is clued in that they’re in for an action comedy wherein the story keeps its tongue firmly in its own cheek as it takes the piss out of action films and their inexperienced protagonists. At least, that’s the idea of Acapulco. Instead, it quickly devolves into trope after trope with a hearty helping of misogyny as garnish masked as progressivism. There’re no real surprises within Acapulco. It’s just an excuse for violence. Now, there’s nothing wrong with violence. The John Wick films are violent. New release Furie is violent. But each of them use violence as an aspect of forward progression in the narrative, whereas in Acapulco, the story is just there to fill the space between gun fights. Again, there’s nothing wrong with stupid fun, especially as the actors seem to be buying into their respective roles with vigor. Here, though, there’s so much going on that it amounts to nothing.
For example, Matt’s a video game designer, so the film uses the traditional sights and sounds of games to convey how Matt views the world. A fight between two characters is overlaid with a heads-up display to look like health bars and the names of each attack are proclaimed out-loud as text pops-up simultaneously identifying the move. In another scene, Matt envisions himself within his own FPS game as he fires a gun to defend himself. On their own, these ideas work well to communicate our narrator’s view of the story. However, when Matt’s seemingly endless fourth wall-breaking commentary kicks in, it kills the momentum of the action and quickly grates as it stops everything to focus on Matt so the audience can either hear his reaction to the new development or actually shift him back to the forefront. Especially in the case of one scene where narrator Matt starts eating popcorn during a fight sequence and the camera repeatedly cuts back-and-forth between the fight and him as he chows down. Once more, the concept is funny and, when used minimally can entertain, but the novelty wears off quickly over its repeated, heavy-handed use.
Then there’s Acapulco’s use of women. Serradilla is incredibly convincing in her role as the deadly and mysterious Adriana. Her physical work is believable as she jumps from one stunt to another. Her delivery is equally so as she imparts emotions well. Frankly, Adriana is far more engaging in the film than Matt, but her role is more often reduced to a protector/sex object role. Even when Adriana is fighting for her life, Matt’s voiceover kicks in about how in love he is with her. To make matters worse, in the moment when Adriana does disclose her motivation and background to Matt, his voiceover kicks in to talk about how he wonders if she has a boyfriend, so we lose all of the significant information for a joke. As the story progresses, every time Matt meets a male character, he immediately makes an internal comment on how they better not want his girlfriend, insinuating that Matt’s claimed Adriana, a woman he barely knows. While much of this can be attributed to the characterization of the lead character as a bit of a smarmy beta male with no sense of social cues, the film then violates another female character through another less-developed female character, solidifying the notion that the film, not just the character, views women as a means to an end. This isn’t just a SJW proclamation. In transitioning from a scene where Matt is blindfolded, the audience is shown two women engaged in amorous activity, prompting the voiceover to crack a joke about not being able to see it. Then, one of the women is murdered in an effort to raise tension. Killing a lover as motivation makes sense when a character’s been developed enough and their significance to the story carries weight. This is just violence for the sake of violence.
There are a few elements of Acapulco that make the experience not entirely forgettable. Director Iván pulls double-duty by also portraying Raphael, a man also seeking the package, and his fight sequences are particularly fun to watch. Similarly, Paul Sorvino, William Baldwin, and Michael Madsen each chew so much scenery that it’s a surprise there’s any left. That, and the central story of intrigue surrounding the package and the people who want it is actually a bit interesting. If Acapulco had shuttered the comedic elements, scaled them back, or refocused the premise as more of a straight action thriller, the whole of the experience would be something to shut your brain off and enjoy. Unfortunately, by centering everything on an unlikeable lead who keeps stopping the story for his own needs, all the good gets lost.
Available on VOD and digital on March 12, 2019.
Final Score: 2 out of 5.
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