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Sometimes, you watch a movie that is so C-grade, but done with so much heart and good intentions, that you cannot help but enjoy it in spite of its shortcomings. Coronado is such a movie with obvious misses in the writing and performances. But it was done with about $4M and looks like it cost $100M. The director and team managed to use every cent of this budget to create a fun adventure flick with attaching characters, great visuals and a sense of expanse thanks to cutting-edge low-budget special effects.
Claire Winslow (Kristin Dattilo) is a spunky girl who decides to surprise her fiancee by joining him in Switzerland while he supposedly is on a business trip over Christmas. When she gets there, she finds out that his office is nothing more than a PO box, and that he actually went to some country in South America: El Coronodo. Annoyed, she decides to fly there and search for him. She lands in the country in the midst of a revolution, befriends the reporter Arnet McClure (Clayton Rohner) and his team, and goes on an adventure through the jungle in search of the rebels she thinks have kidnapped her fiancee. Very quickly, she becomes involved in the revolution and discovers her fiancee is not who she thought he was.
This movie was done mainly by the Special Effects team who worked on Independence Day, and was meant more as an exercise to experiment with high-end visual effects in a very constrained budget environment. Those people had a fun story that demanded means, and no money. They went ahead and did it anyway, and they did a really good job. The special effects really can't compete with the latest blockbusters coming out of Hollywood of course, but they are good enough to feel and look realistic. It's done very creatively. You are treated to a great car, truck and train chase, double-winged helicopters flying out of waterfalls under Mayan temples, and a great finale battle with lots of tanks and jet fighters. The result is a film that looks a lot better, much better, than its price tag would suggest, and throughout, you can't help but feel the overall enthusiasm that went into making this film. I recommend you watch the documentary on the DVD for a better sense of the creativity and passion at play here. It's short, running at under 30mn.
From a writing point of view, the movie fares OK. There are some fun moments, but overall, it's rather predictable and simplistic. The rebels are good, the dictator is bad, the fiancee is really a bad guy, and Claire and Arnet end up together of course. Nevertheless, i found the characters attaching, and Claire in particular was fun to watch go from a spoiled princess to a sassy rebel fighter. The performances are uneaven, but then, who really cares for such a film. As long as it's OK, and doesn't distract too much from the story, it's OK. Finally, a highlight in the movie is the music which was really good. It's very richly layered and benefitted from a big orchestra. There are recurring themes that i found myself whistling days after i saw the film.
In spite of all its faults, and the minuscule budget, i couldn't help but be reminded of a cool adventure flick that with a bigger budget, could have turned really good. All the elements for a good movie are in there and that's a lot to say given what Hollywood has been producing in the genre recently. I am thinking in particular about the horrendous Sahara which cost over 30 times as much and was not half as good as Coronado. This is a fun film, done with a lot of heart, and if you can go past its problems, you will have a decent time with what is otherwise a definite B-movie.
- Laurent Hasson