Movie Review: Panama

Panama is a great…Van Halen song. Panama Red is a good song by New Riders of the Purple Sage. But I’m not doing a music review here (unfortunately). Instead, I’m reviewing an awful film, which is a shame. Songs are only three minutes long. Movies take a few hours of your time. At least with this movie, my wife and I were able to make each other laugh by making fun of the various things that happened on screen. The funniest was that every time a new character was introduced, they’d play this loud guitar riff, with a description on the screen of who the person was. It’s easily the most idiotic thing I’ve seen a filmmaker do in years. It’s like a musical exclamation point that the duo in Wayne’s World would do for their local TV access show.

Director Mark Neveldine (Gamer, Crank High Voltage) is giving us an action picture that’s uneven and ridiculous. Either he, or the two writers (William Barber, Daniel Adams) are to blame; or perhaps one of the 50 people that was listed in the opening credits (which were actually cleverly done, although they last forever).

Then we get the movie narrated by Mel Gibson’s character, Stark. He’s a fixer for the government. And, can someone explain to me again why Gibson is allowed to make movies? In a time when we’re talking about taking Will Smith’s Oscar back for slapping a comedian, the list of things Gibson did is worse than anyone in Hollywood, besides perhaps Roman Polanski, who raped a 13-year-old girl (Gibson came close, though; he wished rape by a “pack of [racial epitath here]” to an old girlfriend). But hey – he gets to make Heartbreak Ridge and get Oscar nominations, so…it’s hard to imagine the Academy is really that upset with Will Smith’s actions. And at this point in the review, the studio is probably wondering why I can’t just review the movie instead of going on about Gibson’s anti-Semitic comments, talk about women, etc. But if you made the decision to cast Mel Gibson, you deserve this kind of talk from the critics (especially a movie that’s only getting 8% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Stark tells us there’s nothing more rock ‘n roll then taking out the bad guys for the red, white, and blue. Sounds like something I’d hear at a Ted Nugent concert [side note: despite what you think about Nugent’s politics, the dude puts on a helluva concert].

This takes place in 1989. I forget where. Oh yeah, Panama. Noriega doesn’t run things so kosher. So, Stark goes to a graveyard where Becker (Cole Hauser of Yellowstone) has been sleeping for a year, beside the grave of his wife. He’s an alcoholic (something Mel Gibson knows a little about, both in real life and in Lethal Weapon as he’s grieving losing his wife), and Stark gives him some tough love. I was wondering why you wouldn’t have sympathy for a soldier you’ve worked with who is grieving over his wife. Even Colonel Jessop in A Few Good Men, who was as big and bad as they come, felt bad when he inquired about the father of a lawyer, only to find out he had passed.

But back to the story. This former Marine is enlisted to pull off a secret arms deal with the Contras. He has to hook up with Noriega, offering a million dollars for a helicopter (or maybe it was the other way around).

Every time Becker meets up with somebody, it’s a guy that has lines of coke, and gorgeous women in bikinis walking around (one of those women is Miss Universe Puerto Rico, Kiara Liz Ortega). It’s like these thugs are all running the Playboy mansion.

And aside from Gibson’s narration being annoying, you have the shaky-cam, which has always been a pet peeve of mine. Invest in a tripod, people! Now, I’m sure the filmmakers would tell you they did that for a certain vibe; yet the shaky-cam is done to death and it merely annoys viewers. Also, with such low production values anyway, this probably wasn’t a great move.

Here’s the type of stuff this movie gives you – narration about a certain drug runner, and how he likes “hookers and blow” with a quick edit to show him doing coke with a few naked women near him. 

There are lines like “I thought the ‘70s were sexy, but man…there’s nothing like the ‘80s.”


Oh, and one character is named Steadman Fagoth Muller (Julio Ramos Velez). There are jokes about his middle name. 

This film is the type of garbage that Bruce Willis is making these days. It’s going on my worst of the year list.

0 stars. 

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