20 May 2014 11:13 PM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

The spirit of Sergio Leone hovers above Argentine director Pablo Fendrik’s “Ardor,” a spooky south-of-the-equator oater — or “machete Western,” if you will — that trades open desert horizons for dense jungle backdrops. With nary a horse in sight, this primordially infused revenge tale unfolds in the present, demonstrating how certain corners of South America are as lawless today as the Old West once was. Fendrik’s unusual genre exercise builds in arduous slow motion toward a thrilling grindhouse climax, but lacks the hair-raising tension a more unsettling sound mix could create — though a slash-and-burn re-edit following its out-of-competition Cannes bow could salvage its commercial chances.

As is, “Ardor’s” evocative settings — coupled with photogenic co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga — lend high-impact visuals to a pic that often drags when it should be making the hairs on the back of our necks bristle. In iconic Western terms, Mexican actor »


- Peter Debruge

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