Treasure Of The Black Jaguar

Treasure Of The Black Jaguar

**1/2

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

The pursuit of wealth above all else is an age-old theme in storytelling. Given the current climate it’s small surprise that contemporary films are turning to it with alacrity - although few are likely to be such a B-movie hoot as this cheap indie effort.

Two best friends, slacker smarts Anthony (Cameron van Hoy) and worrier wits Schlomo (Michael Drayer), head over the US border with an easy in-and-out, get-rich-quick scheme. They pack shabby likability with a trunk load of naivety and so are immediately thrown into a dodgy Mexican prison.

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There a fellow con, the grizzled and impossibly hard treasure hunter Blake West (Timothy Murphy), takes them under his brawny, intimidating wing. Any belief left is then swiftly hoisted skywards as West jailbreaks them, promising our duo vast riches for their assistance. All they need to do is help him trek back into the desert to retrieve the legendary, priceless Treasure of the Black Jaguar.

So the affable Harold & Kumar-lite road movie turns into an adventure of physical and moral endurance - but what the devil is this Black Jaguffin? Handily, a fake Seventies TV documentary acts as a lengthy prologue, giving us all the gory historical Conquistador details. It’s a wonderfully retro creation, overly serious, sensationalist and complete with a sonorous, perma-tanned frontman. It feels very much as if it's a late post-production fix, a left-field crack at establishing the film more successfully than the narrative would have managed alone, but it pays off. The evident skewed humour and stylised camera work smartly and proudly set up the budget-low, imagination-high tone of the film.

Murphy carves West from convincing granite while Drayer and van Hoy throw themselves into the escapade with infectious commitment. They play their characters seriously, but with an eye on the laughs and there are certainly some giggles to be had as they bicker, scheme, sweat and bleed their way into the middle of nowhere. Director Mike Bruce is keen to show off any trick he can and does well with his limited means. Aside from capturing the stand-in Californian scenery well, he has fun with his RED camera’s angles and speeds, whips up woozy montages, splashes the colours around and edits with a Hot Fuzz intensity.

Van Hoy takes on the beefier role, co-produces and also co-scribes with Bruce. You can hear them excitedly taking their what if? scenarios, chaining them into a story and then powering it with Rodriguez and Tarantino verve (clear touchstones). It's probably a stretch to see Ant's journey as an allegory for trying to get this or any film made, but they're clearly talented filmmakers, ones to watch if they ever get the money to match their ambitions. Overall, though, their Treasure here is rough ‘n’ ready, shows its plot holes and requires some fair leaps of faith to enjoy the ever-darkening expedition. Flawed it maybe, but it's still fun.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2011
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Two boys discover easy money is just a mirage in this desert-based caper.
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Festivals:

Raindance 2010

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