Guest Review: ROAD TO JUAREZ

Romina Peniche shines on the Road To Juarez

By Wayne C. Clinton

Special Guest to TVR

Mexican actress Romina Peniche is on the rise.  Performing in indies like “Santiago” and “Blood and Water”, Peniche gives a tour de force performance in David Ponce de Leon’s labor of love action- thriller, “Road To Juarez.”  Hailing from a prominent Mexican family of theatricals, (her older brother is revered Mexican soap mega-star, Arturo Peniche) Peniche grew up in Mexico city and relocated to Los Angeles seven years ago to pursue a career in film.  Unlike the majority of aspiring starlets that embark on the same voyage every year, this is an actress we will be hearing lots about in the future.  Her portrayal of Mirella is reminiscent of Bergman’s “Scenes From A Marriage”, since  her character is locked in a disintegrating union, unable to escape her glass cage.

The female lead of this gripping story, Peniche plays a troubled woman married to a Mexican underworld boss (Castulo Guerra).  Somewhere along the arduous journey along the “Road To Juarez” she falls for the handsome and much younger protagonist (Walter Perez).  At first, the chemistry between them seems to sputter but by the third act of this non-linear morality tale, Perez and Peniche light up the screen with searing sparks.

William Forsythe plays a cunning ex-con with ties to the Mexican underworld who ensnares the pair of misfits in a daring heist to uncover a lost shipment of illegal animal products in Mexico.  The trio embarks on a doomed expedition south of the war-torn border.

The writing is clever and the rest of the solid cast delivers fine performances.  Adal Ramones (described at one time as ‘Mexico’s Jay Leno’) shows that he has genuine dramatic chops, playing a brutal, psychopathic henchman who kidnaps the protagonist’s best friend (CSI Cyber’s Charley Koontz) and the warlord’s son (played by outstanding newcomer Joshua Ponce de Leon).

The momentum and tone feels jarring at times due to the innovative but dizzying parallel structure employed by Ponce de Leon.  The relationship between the Mexican cops feels uneven and hard to swallow.  There is no doubt that this is a very ambitious first film that perhaps could have used a larger budget.  The gorgeous photography by Jonathan West ASC, superior production values, fine acting and slick look elevate this first opus, making up for the bumps in the ‘Road’.

“Road To Juarez” doesn’t take itself too seriously, (some of the banter between the heavies is quite funny) yet the ominous and topical undertones resonate far beyond the surface.  Ponce de Leon manages to use the Mexican underworld as a mere backdrop for his story about the wayward international travels of his two lovable losers.  It’s like that train wreck that you just can’t help but watch.   In it’s highly unlikely fourth week in theaters, the digital release of this indie should appeal to a cult following on both sides of the border.

“Road To Juarez” was produced by Scott Rosenfelt and Cesar Ramirez and is a Mousetrap films release.

Playing this week at Regal Metropolitan Stadium 14 in Austin.

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