Complete A-Z list



Stars: Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo

Director: Mel Gibson

Much has been made of Gibson's film opening a window on a largely unknown past civilization - the Mayan empire of Central America at the beginning of its final decline in the early 16th century. But it is, in fact, more a primitive adventure story, its final half-hour a desperate pursuit through the rainforest, reminiscent of the old Cornel Wilde film The Naked Prey.

A jungle tribe finds its peaceful existence invaded by Mayan warriors, led by the massive Zero Wolf (Trujillo), who torch the village and overcome its inhabitants' spirited resistance. The surviving men are trussed up and taken back to the victors' city, to be used as human sacrifices while the women will be sold to the highest bidder.

Not that the Mayans are exactly civilised. After men are sacrificed, their hearts are plucked out and their heads cut off and rolled down a massive stepway to a cheering crowd.

Naturally, one of the villagers, the resourceful Jaguar Paw (Youngblood) escapes, showing all the stoicism of an old Western hero by surviving a spear in his side and an arrow in his chest. You half expect him to emerge at the end with his arm in a sling. But there are eight Mayan pursuers, mostly to be dispatched in different ways as our hero continues his charmed life.

Hereabouts, the film develops elements of the silent serial, as the rainwaters rise over Jaguar Paw's heavily pregnant wife, whose own waters have broken as she waits, with their son, trapped in a deep hole where they've taken refuge.

Though the film is very violent, its re-creation of a Mayan city is mightily impressive; of the other effects, only a battle between panther and man looks poorly faked. And, despite the odd lull, it keeps up pounding excitement most of the way.

David Quinlan

USA/Mexico 2006. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour by De Luxe.
135 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 02 Jan 2007