‘La Soga Salvation’ Review: Manny Pérez Delivers a Flimsy Excuse for a Sequel

‘La Soga Salvation’ Review: Manny Pérez Delivers a Flimsy Excuse for a Sequel

January 30, 2022

Even fans of “La Soga,” the 2009 crime drama shot in the Dominican Republic, will have their patience taxed by this vacuous follow-up that catches up with Luisito (Manny Pérez), a former executioner for the secret police in Santiago now living a quiet life in New England with his girlfriend Lia (Sarah Jorge Leon).

Things don’t stay quiet for long. Luisito’s past intrudes on his domestic bliss in the form of a well-dressed U.S. federal agent (Chris McGarry), who kidnaps Lia and threatens to murder her unless Luisito takes down a Dominican drug lord before he can testify in court. The assignment gets complicated fast. But despite the mayhem, the film remains curiously inert, unable to generate even the B-grade buzz of a lower-tier Liam Neeson paycheck picture.

The original movie — a minor phenomenon back in 2009, being the first Dominican Republic-made feature to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival — included political subtexts about the role the American government inadvertently plays in spurring crime in Latin America. The sequel (which also screened at TIFF, debuting there a dozen years later) is just a hollow exercise in genre, devoid of wit or, often, simple logic.

Pérez, who once again wrote the script and this time also serves as director, doesn’t have much to say this time about his country’s entrenched corruption — one of the worst in all of Latin America. Instead, he serves up a straightforward genre exercise filled with gunfights, violence and mounting tedium. Pérez is out to make a serious movie instead of embracing the material’s shoot-’em-up roots. What’s worse, there isn’t a single memorable action beat in the entire film, and Pérez is so busy overseeing the entire production he forgets to give his character a trace of personality or wit.

The introduction of a female assassin (Hada Vanessa), who is not sure whether to kill Luisito or go to bed with him, does little to interrupt the rote feel of the movie. (She does, however, make you question whether Luisito is really all that upset over the kidnapping of his girlfriend.) Baffling flashbacks to the first film are left unexplained and the return of a particular character will confuse viewers without a working knowledge of the previous chapter.

Worst of all, “La Soga Salvation” lacks the energetic style director Josh Crook brought to the pulpy original. Pérez has a knack for always placing the camera in all the wrong places, especially during the film’s climactic showdown, which results in confusion instead of the intended shock and catharsis. The same goes for the rest of this unfortunate thriller, a moribund vanity project that will find few takers.

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