That sums up Mel Gibson's blood-spurting debacle of the same name, a perverse and sadistic historical sprint that suffers the carte blanche excesses of a successful director who believes he's earned the right not to be told "no."
Even as Gibson's blockbuster Biblical epic The Passion of the Christ took in record-breaking box-office totals two years ago, the filmmaker faced accusations that the on-screen violence was gratuitous. (I'd defend the director by saying the final hours of Jesus Christ are supposed to be difficult, so the heavy handed brutality served the chosen story.) Gibson's puzzling response to that controversy: Create a savage exercise in tribal torture that slaughters hundreds of innocents but furthers absolutely no credible plot point.
Gibson's main character in the subtitled plodder is Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), the soft-spoken leader of a Mayan village who stashes his son and pregnant wife in a deep cave when Holcane warriors storm his unsuspecting forest community. After massive amounts of blood is spilled -- Gibson's rapid-slice battle choreography was stimulating in Braveheart but chaotic here -- the survivors are marched to a nearby city where their options range from being sold into slavery to being sacrificed for the pleasure of a sun god.
When I tell you heads will roll, I'm being literal. Apocalypto has at least three shots of severed skulls tumbling down the steps of stone temples. For every bouncing noggin, Mel also includes a scene of a heart being pulled from a chest cavity and dropped on a sizzling slab for grilling. Again, the point of these torturous asides is unclear.
Because Gibson thinks we care about Jaguar Paw's abandoned family, he shifts the film's second half into third gear and turns Apocalytpo into a frantic foot race for their safety. The lanky warrior, turned loose by his captives, is hunted through the dense brush as he calls on the previously unseen combat skills of Arnold Schwarzenegger circa Predator. As Jaguar Paw picks off his pursuers, Gibson -- a proven sadist as demonstrated by his bone-crunching body of work -- celebrates each kill with glee.
Apocalypto will only please audiences who pay to see characters they know nothing about be speared, clubbed, impaled, beheaded, hung, raped, pushed off cliffs, and bitten through the face by a jaguar. Gibson has a bright future making illegal snuff films. That's not a compliment.
The director precedes Apocalypto with a cryptic quote by philosopher Will Durant: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." Since the quote has nothing, in context, to do with the film, I'll assume it refers to Gibson himself. If the press, by pouncing on the celebrity's recent publicized statements of hatred, are attempting to conquer Mel's career from without, then Apocalypto shows he already has successfully destroyed it from within.
This is way better than the Bellagio!
In Theaters: Friday 8th December 2006
Box Office USA: $50.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $120.2M
Distributed by: Buena Vista
Production compaines: Icon Entertainment International, Icon Productions, Touchstone Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 128 Rotten: 68
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Mel Gibson
Screenwriter: Mel Gibson, Farhad Safinia
Starring: Rudy Youngblood as Jaguar Paw, Dalia Hernández as Seven, Jonathan Brewer as Blunted, Morris Birdyellowhead as Flint Sky, Raoul Trujillo as Zero Wolf, Carlos Emilio Báez as Turtles Run, Amilcar Ramírez as Curl Nose, Israel Contreras as Smoke Frog, Israel Ríos as Cocoa Leaf, Espiridion Acosta Cache as Old Story Teller, Mayra Serbulo as Young Woman, Gerardo Taracena as Middle Eye, Rodolfo Palacios as Snake Ink, Iazua Larios as Sky Flower, Lorena Heranandez as Village Girl, Itandehui Gutierrez as Wife, Sayuri Gutierrez as Eldest Daughter, Hiram Soto as Fish Hunter, José Suárez as First Temple Sacrifice, Ariel Galvan as Hanging Moss, Bernardo Ruiz as Drunkards Four, Ricardo Diaz Mendoza as Cut Rock, Richard Can as Ten Peccary, Carlos Ramos as Monkey Jaw, Ammel Rodrigo Mendoza as Buzzard Hook, Marco Antonio Argueta as Speaking Wind, Javier Escobar as Vicious Holcane, Fernando Hernandez as High Priest, María Isabel Díaz as Mother in Law, Maria Isidra Hoil as Oracle Girl, Aquetzali García as Oracle Girl, Abel Woolrich as Laughing Man, Antonio Monroi as Chilam, Nicolás Jasso as Man on Temple Top, Ronaldo Eknal as Slave Auctioneer, Miriam Tun as Woman Auctioneer, Rafael Velez as King, Diana Botello as Queen, Joaquin Rendon as Head Chac