Apocalypto (R)

Action/Adventure 138 December 8, 2006
By J. Hoberman
This lavishly punishing picture is the third panel in Mel Gibson's Ordeal triptych. The Martyrdom of the Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ have nothing on The Misadventures of the Jaguar Paw, junior citizen of a generally jovial, practical-joke-loving 16th-century Central American social unit. Over the course of Apocalypto's 140 subtitled minutes, Jaguar Paw (American actor Rudy Youngblood) endures two Calvaries. After his village is overrun, sacked, and more or less crucified by a marauding group of "civilized" Mayans, J.P. is dragged through the jungle, carrying his cross to the Temple of Doom. After he's saved from ritual sacrifice by a timely miracle, there's an hour of running barefoot, bleeding, back home to the cenote where he stashed his pregnant wife and child. J.P. dodges spears, vaults waterfalls, and slogs through quicksand. It's a non-stop sprint -- complete with irate mama jaguar nipping at his keister. Mel is a glutton for male punishment. There's not a man in this movie who isn't scourged, bashed, or punctured -- unless he's disemboweled. Unlike its predecessors, however, Apocalypto is unburdened by nationalist or religious piety -- it's pure, amoral sensationalism. As for J.P., his trip to hell ends when the Christians arrive.
Mel Gibson Mauricio Amuy Tenorio, Raoul Trujillo, Mayra Serbulo, Dalia Hernandez, Gerardo Taracena, Rudy Youngblood Mel Gibson, Farhad Safinia Mel Gibson, Bruce Davey Buena Vista

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