A hapless videogame designer finds himself in Acapulco, on the run from high-powered criminals, deadly hitmen, and the Feds. Partnering with a beautiful femme fatale and channeling his inner videogame action hero, the pair unravels a conspiracy that could shake the foundation of the United States, maybe even the world.
There aren’t many things sadder to a film critic than seeing a once-great stalwart plummet from A-list grace to direct-to-VOD crap. Having once spearheaded film distribution at a mid-sized entertainment company, I will never forget the communal office laughed when yet another film with one-time Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts was pitched to us, just to be set aside as “unsellable.” The same fate has befallen many thespians, once great and now delegated to uttering nonsensical lines in Z-grade schlock for a paycheck. Forget your Tom Sizemores, and Gary Buseys – the likes of John Cusack, Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Ben Kingsley, and Nicolas Cage have all succumbed to the “Call of the Desperate,” releasing trashy fare at a rate so fast, one wonders when they find the time. Ah, the woes of Hollywood.
Guillermo Iván’s Welcome to Acapulco features three such actors: the indelible Michael Madsen, once so vicious/enigmatic, slicing off ears in Tarantino movies, and now phoning it in at an average rate of a dozen films per year. Then there’s Paul Sorvino, once dominating the screen in Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and now the go-to guy for bargain-bin stuff. And then one of the dozen Baldwin brothers, William, once fighting fires in “Backdraft,” and now sizzling in the ashes of his own career.
“…the young chap finds himself in quite a predicament when he wakes up drunk on the way to Acapulco…”
Whether Welcome to Acapulco will help the actors rise out of those ashes like drugged-up phoenixes remains to be seen, but the director certainly gives it his all. Working on a limited budget, his aspirations run high: filled with chase sequences, low-fi digital effects, a plethora of stylistic quirks and meta-references, his film is basically The Fast & The Furious: Acapulco if it were directed by Uwe Boll. And that’s not entirely as terrible as it sounds.
I will take a wild guess that Iván loves Deadpool. Unless his film was made before the Ryan Reynolds vehicle, in which case, Iván is ahead of his time. From the lead character’s self-referential quips to the meta asides, one would be hard-pressed not to notice the similarities. Iván’s efforts may be strained but are nonetheless charming, and sometimes even amusing. The movie starts at the end, wherein every law enforcement agency and mob boss in Mexico are after our hero, then rewinds back to how it all began – and even throws in end credits about 15 minutes into the narrative to throw us off balance. Ballsy move, Iván.
Our hapless hero, Mathew (Michael Kingsbaker, giving it his all), designs a frankly shoddy-looking, rotoscope-like game and plans on premiering it at the Video Game Awards in New Mexico. However, the young chap finds himself in quite a predicament when he wakes up drunk on the way to Acapulco, Mexico (see the confusion?). Before he even makes it to the hotel room, the CIA is on his a*s, demanding a mysterious package. Next thing Mathew knows, a young woman named Adriana (Ana Serradilla) shows up, claims to be his wife and rescues him. He ends up at the police station “in some really serious s**t.”
“…fight upon fight, shootout upon shootout, chase upon chase, and character upon character peppering the convoluted story…”
From here the plot gets so muddled with fight upon fight, shootout upon shootout, chase upon chase and character upon character peppering the convoluted story, it would take pages to explain. Let’s just say, with the help of Adriana, our ill-fated hero gets to the bottom of things, which involve a global conspiracy… or something. To quote Shakespeare, it’s all “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Yet it also happens to be rather fun, in a super-trashy sort of way. Michael Madsen, sporting hair as oily as his demeanor, plays the “evil incarnate” bounty hunter, Hyde, with more investment than he’s awarded his previous half-dozen flicks. Paul Sorvino, bless his heart, plays a corrupted senator who shoots naked girls in bathtubs. William Baldwin plays Jake, a wealthy businessman, who utters lines like, “the money trail leads right back to the White House.” (Oops, I may have spoiled something here… whatever.)
Welcome to Acapulco may not show much of the titular city or its culture, but it has zany energy to spare, propelled along by an oddball hard-rock score. It’s crammed with videogame-like asides: every character is introduced via an animated freeze-frame announcing their name, along with “character stats”; digital hearts pop up around our hero when he meets Adriana for the first time, and so on and so forth. All that, plus the non-stop assault of action and surprising humor, adds up to decent B-movie fare, “turn-your-brain-off” entertainment. To quote another famous wordsmith, film critic Pauline Kael, “movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be invested in them.” By that rationale, Welcome to Acapulco – at least partially – warrants your investment. It may not reach levels of great trash, but it sure aspires to such, and is always watchable, if only for the sight of thespians hamming it up for a buck. Here’s (vainly) hoping that Welcome to Acapulco will put those fallen legends back on the map.
Welcome to Acapulco (2019) Directed by Guillermo Iván. Starring Michael Kingsbaker, William Baldwin, Michael Madsen, Paul Sorvino, Ana Serradilla.
6 out of 10