Aftershock (2012/13)




Aftershock...it's not just a terrible tasting hard liquor you pass around at frat parties after all the kegs have kicked. Now it's a genuine full length feature film starring Eli Roth, who I think used to be a director, and directed by Nicolas Lopez, who I think, still is. Roth co-wrote the film with both Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo, which, after watching the first act, is not hard to tell since it's essentially a PG-13 rip off of the first act of 'Hostel.'

If you've seen that film than you know what to expect from the first 25 minutes or so of the film. A group of friends, this time it's Gringo (Roth) the outsider who is down is Chile visiting an old camp friend Ariel (he's a dude) and his buddy Pollo, which I thought was Spanish for chicken. Maybe that's supposed to be some sort of subtext...or should have been, because it's an odd name to really not mean anything. These three guys spend their days in the heart of 'Sideways' country, touring Chile's vast wineries with Gringo acting like a complete tourist nerd and the other two guys rolling their eyes at him every chance they get.

At night however they troll the underbelly of Santiago's club scene looking for booze, drugs and any pussy they can find. Along the way each of our main guys slides right into their respective stereotypical roles. Pollo is the ring leader able to use his fathers influence and money to get the group into and out of any situation. Ariel (dude) is his trusty sidekick who pines after his ex and Gringo is his (Ariel's) sidekick. Gringo is from San Diego. He has a daughter....and he just wants to meet that one special girl - in a club...in Chile. There is an odd cameo by Selena Gomez of all people...and finally we meet our main group of girls.

Pairing up like all good movie groups do, Kylie = Pollo, Monica = Ariel, and Irina = Gringo, it's time to move the party to somewhere much less safe. These folks choose the coastal city of Valparaiso. Things continue down the same path they were going back in Santiago...partying, hooking up, regret and jealously. Then the earthquake hits. And all hell breaks loose.

Back in 9th grade English class we were all taught that there are three basic types of conflict: Man versus Man, Man versus Nature and Man versus Self. Now if I took a poll and asked "In a movie where the main plot catalyst is a massive earthquake, which type of conflict do you think you are most likely to see?" A resounding amount of you would say "Man versus Nature." And under normal circumstances you'd be correct. 'Aftershock,' although containing many man versus nature elements is much more a "man versus man" picture with a dash of "man versus self." It's an interesting take on the disaster film sub genre, but it's also the films ultimate downfall.

The biggest "buy in" you really need to make with 'Aftershock' is the fact that when faced with a massive tragedy most people will revert to their most evil tendencies. And while there certainly is a marked amount of bad shit that goes on during a crisis, it's usually snuffed out by a whole lot of good. Not in 'Aftershock' though. Escaped prisoners are allowed to run rough shod through the streets, enforcing their own brand of Marshall Law. The second act of the film almost has more in common with 'Escape From New York' than with any of the "classic" disaster films. The last reel tries to incorporate an unneeded twist (before the other twist) that really makes very little sense, although admittedly it does add a little to the re-watch value.

It's not all crap with 'Aftershock' though, despite their stereotypical roles, the actors actually do a very good job with what they are given. Roth plays it rather big, but he always seems to play it rather big. Big worked well in 'Inglorious Bastards.' But big does not work as well here. The other issue with Roth's casting is that you really just can't separate him being "Eli Roth" from the character. It's not his fault - he is Eli Roth. Lopez does a good job with the films direction. The film is paced well and there are some genuinely stunning shots. I had a criticism of Darren Lynn Bousman on '11/11/11' where he really lost the fact that the film was shot and set in the beautiful city of Barcelona. The same cannot be said here. A Chilean native, Lopez highlights his country in a spectacular way. Chile becomes another character in the film. For you travel junkies out there, even after watching a pseudo-disaster film like 'Aftershock' you will add Chile to your travel itinerary. 

'Aftershock' is a collection of comfortable, good ideas, that tries to be uncomfortable. It's not necessarily a bad film, but it's not a good one either. If you are looking for a "classic" disaster tale, look somewhere else. If you want something a bit different with some solid acting and direction, check it out. 'Aftershock' is currently streaming on Netflix.

**1/2 stars out of *****

As always - thanks for reading and "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

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