The Burning has a perfectly competent set up in which a mysterious man (Gael Garcia Bernal) emerges from deep within the Argentine rainforest in order to seek revenge for and with a wronged young woman (Alice Braga). There is nothing new here to the western genre, it’s pretty much as classic a genre plot as you can imagine with the exception of the locale being swapped from dusty American plains to the dangerous rainforest. Not that there is anything wrong with revisiting the generic plot if you do something with it, but simply swapping the location doesn’t work on this occasion, and coupled with the lifeless characters and the overwhelming lack of tension present here and you have a pretty poor film on your hands.
Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga both perform well here, I cannot fault their work at all. The film itself is slow but without using its pacing to interesting effect. Instead of having a slow and ponderous western (often the best kind) we just have a slow western in which not much happens a lot of the time. It’s also riddled with cliches from the use of a man being at one with nature as symbolised by his physic bond with a wild animal, villains who have no definition but just feel like a mixture of action film goons and those from Deliverance.
The film does have one true saving grace, the various opposing forces meet at one point in a taut and exciting showdown. This is well filmed, exciting and is the injection of life which, by that point, the film is begging for. Unfortunately as much as this causes you to sit up and take notice it’s just too little too late and cannot save this lifeless affair. It’s a shame that this failed to live up to its promise. We had good actors in a film that clearly wanted to create a stripped back, fresh entry into the western genre, and that is an exciting prospect. However when you have such a painful lack of chemistry between your cast, an unimaginative script and you’ve set out to reduce the pace to an agonised crawl you’re pretty much doomed from the offset.
The Burning is released in the UK today, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!