“The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself (Ezekiel 18:20).” While I’m not one to quote bible passages, this one is essentially the modus operandi of Harry Locke IV’s sorta dreadful City of Gold. It’s the story of the American ancestor of a 16th Century conquistador’s trek to Peru to put some metaphorical and physical distance between him and his accursed family history and to track down an elusive master artist living in the South American jungle. With its witch’s brew of angst-ridden leads, neo-Incan metaphysics, slightly incongruous animation sequences, demonic possession, and an oddly shifting time structure, City of Gold is a misfit of picture that straddles multiple genres but sinks into the quicksand of its own muddled narrative.
Jon Davenport (played by Alexander Skarsgård look-alike Robbie Allen) is a mopey SoCal bro who is the scion of Richard Davenport — the head of Davencorp — the largest media conglomerate in the world. Jon is also into S&M and submits to the whip in an effort rid himself of some existential weight which we learn in a roundabout fashion. It’s also the karmic residue of his shared lineage with the sadistic “Inquisitor” (played with scene-chewing glee by Vernon Wells) who, back in the day, scoured the jungles of the New World in search of the fabled city of gold — El Dorado.
“…the story of the American ancestor of a 16th Century conquistador’s trek to Peru…”
After his dad offs himself (but not before he warns his son of “not letting your regrets consume you”), Jon runs into his old flame, Elizabeth (Riley Dandy). A plucky wannabe art dealer, Liz invites Jon to go in search of the erstwhile Jorge Escamilla (John Charles Meyer), a reclusive artist living Peru (natch!) whose paintings make the work of Hieronymus Bosch look like something out of Cloud Cuckoo Land. Before you can say Commando, Liz and Jon hook up with a maybe Russian drug kingpin who then hooks them a group of mercenaries — and a Dollar Store shaman — who are to accompany them into the rebel-infested jungle (which has surprisingly well-paved roads) and help them track down Escamilla.
Jon and party eventually find Escamilla who — for a wannabe hermit — has a hell of an online art presence (f**k you, Etsy!). Ambushes occur, underhanded motivations are revealed, Jon becomes possessed by ancient beserker spirits of his conquistador forefathers, pretentious speeches are made, and all the brown people die.
“…hoping that the Predator would drop in, rip everyone’s skulls and spinal columns…”
I was just hoping that the Predator would drop in, rip everyone’s skulls and spinal columns from their still warm corpses, and that would be the end of this tilt-a-whirl of a flick. But this did not come to pass. In the movie’s defense, some of the action sequences were well put together and the ideas underpinning the story — especially the whole “you-cannot-escape-your past-no-matter-where-you-run” thing — were kinda interesting. But in execution, the City of Gold felt more like a stale episode of The Bold and Beautiful but with Eli Roth’s understudy at the helm. If you’re spoiling for a good ole cinematic rumble in the jungle, you’d better off streaming any 80s Schwarzenegger-in-camo movie or Cannibal Holocaust if you’re feeling more jaunty.
City of Gold (2018) Written by Ronald A. Blum. Directed by Harry Locke IV. Starring Robbie Allen, John Charles Meyer, Christopher Atkins, Riley Dandy, Branscombe Richmond.
3 out of 10 stars