(director/writer: Kevin James Dobson; screenwriter: Michael Fallon; cinematographers: Ross Barryman/Ross Berryman; editors: Scott Conrad/Bruce Novotny/Dan Schalk; music: Aaron Zigman; cast: Minnie Driver (Karina Danes, Reporter), Ana Claudia Talancón (Mariela), Jorge Cervera Jr. (Isidro), Jacob Vargas (Det.Lauro), Araceli Guzman-Rico (Lisabet), Esai Morales (Father Herrera), Noel Guglielmi (Gio Herrerea), Joanna Cassidy (Eve), Angus MacFadyen (Patrick Nunzio); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kevin James Dobson/Rosemary Marks; First Look Home Entertainment; 2006)

“A volatile mixture of religious drama and crime story that doesn’t mix well and in the end the film implodes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A volatile mixture of religious drama and crime story that doesn’t mix well and in the end the film implodes. Co-writer-director Kevin James Dobson has a story worth telling but is clueless on how to tell it. I think the filmmaker and co-writer Michael Fallon mean well, but they move the narrative to an over-the-edge tangent and never do justice to the horrible murder story raised. It’s a straight-to-video flick that exploits the lurid front page headlines and never seems more than a badly acted crass film.

The intense and nosy Los Angeles reporter Karina Danes (Minnie Driver) is sent by her boss to investigate the 300 or so unsolved brutal abductions, rapes and murders of women occurring in Juarez, Mexico since 1993 and learns more about these crimes than she bargained for. The poor Mexican city is located just over the border of the United States near El Paso, Texas, and most of the victims work in the American factory that located there for the cheap labor and to save the costs of implementing work safety programs. Danes tags along with crusading Father Herrera (Esai Morales) and activist Patrick Nunzio (Angus MacFadyen) to the crime scene of the latest mutilation killing of factory girl Lisabet. The reporter learns of another vic the same day and becomes involved with the hospitalized young woman named Mariela (Ana Claudia Talancón), who though severely beaten is a rare survivor. The recovering Mariela has visions of the Virgin Mary and experiences stigmata. This attracts the local church to shelter her and brings hope to an area plagued by such violence who out of desperation turn to her as their spiritual source. She’s dubbed as “The Virgin of Juarez” and attracts large crowds from the surrounding area. It leads to religious hysteria and some far-fetched dramatics. The murdered factory woman’s husband Isidro (Jorge Cervera Jr.) develops a kinship with Mariela and proves to be handy with a knife as he goes after those in the stolen police mugshots he believes responsible for the murders. The police under homicide lead investigator Lauro (Jacob Vargas) appear to be either indifferent, incompetent or corrupt.

It turns out to be a sleazy and nasty story that takes us so far away from the original premise, that it manages to turn the tragedy into a cheap entertainment story.

The Virgin of Juarez Poster