The setup is primo: An American known only as Gringo (Eli Roth) and his Spanish-speaking pals are on a tour of Chile. It’s a hedonistic succession of wine-country days and discotheque evenings, with plenty of alcohol consumed and buxom beauties ogled. After 30 minutes of fleet, intriguing character development—Gringo is a divorced father with self-confidence issues; his frat-boorish buddies have similarly complicated shades—everyone gathers at a nightclub where a massive earthquake brings the walls tumbling down onto that poor girl with the Wu-Tang Clan tattoo.
It’s at this point that Nicolás López’s slick shocker turns into an unholy amalgam of disaster film and slasher flick. The tectonic shift brings the city to a standstill, empties a jail full of psychotic prisoners onto the streets, and unleashes—as a Gabriel's-trumpet–like siren warns—a towering tsunami slowly making its way to shore. As Gringo & Co. wander around looking for safety—Andrea Osvárt’s prudish Monica turns out to be the movie’s unwitting heroine—they are subjected to the kind of indignities you expect in a Roth-headlined feature (he also cowrote and produced). Each character’s suffering, be it the loss of a hand or a terribly prolonged rape, is lingered over with sniggering intimacy, until a jokey moment of death (open a manhole, get slammed by a car) frees us of any need to view them as human. People become mere punch lines: fleshy avatars for the gory grist.
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