Writer/director Michel Franco’s “Sundown” was designed to emit discussion. Neil (Tim Roth) is a wealthy Brit on vacation in Acapulco with his sister and her two kids. About 10 minutes in, we get the film’s juiciest, most shocking moment.
This is a truly guilty pleasure section. You not only feel badly about what’s happening — but simultaneously you realize Neil deserves a lot of credit for having the guts to pull-off what he does. There are bound to be consequences, but Neil is delaying them for as long as possible. (And eventually we learn exactly why he feels the need to behave the way he does.)
Now we’re hooked. So what comes next? “Sundown” seeps into a combo mystery/survival story. It has a relatively slow pace, but at the same time, Franco requires you to keep up. He lets a number of situations linger in ambiguity. Roth (who’s also an EP) has relatively little dialogue. Neil is often seen just taking it all in, whether hanging at the beach, with a new lady friend, or in more uncomfortable situations. And darkness in never far behind.
The second half falls off a bit as the script’s flaws are uncovered. Things become too intentional and equally too far-fetched. The late twists aren’t quite as organic, and I wish some key pieces of information weren’t shoved in our face like a hungry pig at dinnertime.
French-English actress/singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg leads the solid supporting ensemble as Neil’s sister Alice. We identify with her as well, as her tolerance is pushed to the limit.
At the end of the day, “Sundown” doesn’t shine as brightly as it could have. However, its themes will remain in your mind — at least until sunrise.
LCJ GRADE: B-
Running Time: 83 min.