In a classic no-good-deed-goes-unpunished scenario, River shows the trouble people can get into when they poke their nose where they shouldn’t — even if it’s for admirable reasons.
In his directorial debut, Jamie M .Dagg takes audiences on an essentially hour-long chase scene starring Vancouver-born actor Rossif Sutherland (if his last name looks familiar, he is the son of Donald Sutherland and half-brother of 24‘s Kiefer Sutherland).
The film gets off to a somewhat gory start, as the scene is set in a Laotian village where Sutherland plays visiting American doctor John Lake. During one of his shifts, a truck drops off a load of bloody patients, one of whom dies on the operating table. Visibly shaken by the experience, Lake goes to drown his sorrows at the beach-side bar.
It’s there that he encounters a frat boy-duo of Australian tourists trying to get a couple of local girls drunk. Lake tells them to back off, which of course they don’t, and soon after on his way home encounters an Aussie beside one of the the girls who has passed out, presumably raped.
Following a heated exchange of bravado and a sucker punch taken by Lake on the face, he loses control and beats the man to death. The girl wakes up, and thinking Lake to be the rapist, screams and runs off. And thus begins the protagonists’ worse few weeks of his life.
A scene shows Lake in the bathroom, bruised and dirtied, panicking and questioning the results of his actions. This part is all relatable, because anyone would likely react in the same manner given the turn of events. It’s his subsequent natural instinct to run, no matter the situation or circumstance, that starts to transcend the realm of believability.
For instance, after being apprehended — and identified — by the police, he chooses to flee the scene rather than explain himself, even though he’s 13,000 kilometres away from home and only has quite literally the clothes on his back. A few brushes with the authorities later, he chooses sneak what is hinted at as a contraband across the Thai border, which he is crossing illegally, in exchange for car passage to Bangkok. The final chase sequence in the last act is perhaps the most perplexing of all, but I won’t spoil it here.
Lake’s life decisions aside, what the movie does make you believe in is the beauty of the backdrop. From the scenes where characters are interacting in their native tongue to the wide-angle shots of the Southeast Asian landscape, it’s a refreshing break from today’s green screen standard.
River opens in select theatres this month.