First Run Features // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // February 22nd, 2011
The most dangerous route in all of South America.
I love a good road movie. They might be aimless, meandering tales of wanderlust, but done right, they can be exciting travelogues filled with weird characters and gorgeous locations. Even when there's nothing more important going on than driving, they can still be some of the most vibrant and alive movies around. Carmo, Hit the Road may not qualify as the best example of its genre, but it's an action-packed romp through Brazil that's filled with sex and violence, but mixed with a little sweetness to make for a very fun film.
Carmo (Mariana Loureiro) hates her life. Days of doing nothing and nights of fending off drunken pervs just isn't doing it for her anymore and she'd do anything to get out of town. When she has the chance to help a sketchy-looking paraplegic, whether he asked for it or not, Carmo jumps in his truck. Marco (Fele Martínez, Bad Education), it turns out, is smuggling stereo equipment along the Brazil/Paraguay border and Carmo's up for some fun. Away they go, but with rival smugglers on their tail looking for blood, this ride will be bumpier than she expects.
If there's anything surprising about Carmo, it's how fun the film is while everything happening is completely predictable. As Marco and Carmo travel along the border, finally making their way into Bolivia, they hit every note that a romantic rode movie is supposed to hit. They fight and fight until the sparks start to fly and, just as soon as they start to get together, something happens to rip them apart. Now, they must struggle back into each other's arms, and it all happens like it's supposed to. That's not such a bad thing, necessarily; Carmo moves along quickly and is a fun, stylish diversion.
Like any good road movie, though, the characters are the heart of the film. The title character is a typical wild child, ready for anything but prepared for nothing. For all her flightiness and frivolity, though, Carmo is a girl you want to be with, full of life and energy. Marco is a quieter, more nuanced figure, and not just for the wheelchair gimmick. As a smuggler, there's a dark side to the character, but without ever talking about it, there's a moral code to his actions. He'd never admit it, but he shows it all the time. Smuggler or not, he's not trying to put his hands all over Carmo all the time, and on a certain level, that's good enough for her. Together, they run across a host of different weirdoes; some helpful and nice, others violent and cruel, and all of them completely nuts. From her parents obsessions with Catholicism and messy sex to the militantly gay smuggler and his mongoloid associate, all the characters are over the top and ridiculous. Because we never linger to long on one scene before moving on, there's no point in getting involved very deeply in their stories; they serve as caricatures, but that's their job.
At best, we get an onscreen text introduction to characters with a piece of anecdotal information; one of a few fun stylistic touches in the film. I found the device pretty funny, though I can see how some would feel it's too much of a referential wink at the audience. The movie doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest, so anything like this is more than welcome. The film is fast-paced and full of energy, with beautiful cinematography from Robbie Ryan. The natural landscape looks spectacular and the destitute interior shots are appropriately dingy, but still brightly colored and festive. This is a stylish film that, for its story faults, is still great fun to watch.
First Run Features doesn't release a lot of genre style pictures, but there's no other label that would have picked this up, so I'm certainly happy. Overall, it's not a great package, but it gets the job done. The image is a little muted, but it looks fair overall. The stereo mix is a little better; it's nice and bright with clear dialog and music. The only extras are a director's bio, a photo gallery, and a bank of trailers for other films on the label, all of which is standard issue for First Run.
They don't make road pictures like they used to, but Carmo, Hit the Road gives it a shot. It doesn't always succeed, but I had a great time with the characters and the locations. There's not a lot more you can ask from this kind of film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery