Dance Party in the Shaman Cave

Back in the 90s, Sean Connery was in a cool movie called Medicine Man. He played a scientist who was searching for a cancer cure in the South American rainforest. He had gone slightly native, and it was funny to see him all calm and collected opposite Lorraine Bracco’s very New Yorker character.  The rainforest shots are lovely, and the movie is fun and exciting.  So why am I bringing it up? I have no idea. After watching this week’s movie, I found myself really wanting to toss Medicine Man on the queue. I’m just sharing.

This week’s movie goes by one of two titles depending on where you search. Netflix has it listed as Lost Treasure of the Maya which makes sense since the movie is about the search for a lost Mayan treasure. IMDB says the movie is titled No Bad Days which in my opinion, is a horrible title.  For this review, we are sticking with Lost Treasure of the Maya.

LTOTM opens with a caption telling me it’s 1240 a.d. in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are really nice shots of jungle, but our nature retrospective is cut short when a Mayan dude carrying a satchel goes sprinting through the forest. He’s being chased by a bunch of dudes who looked like they just ended their shift working for Rainbow Brite. One guy is painted red, another yellow, etc. At first, I thought this might have been some cut footage from Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto but I was wrong.

The painted men chase Satchel Man all through the jungle and even into a pool of water at the base of a short cliff. I have to say, the cinematography in this is pretty solid. Even the shots of the men swimming underwater is so well-lit and so clear. The pool of water leads into a series of underground caves. Satchel manages to lose Red man, and he takes the time to pull out what looks like a green mask thingy (distant relation to the idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark?) and hide it. As he swims away from the caves, he’s caught by the Rainbow brigade and is killed. All that running and swimming and hiding and more swimming was all for naught—or was it?

As movie intros go, that one was actually pretty intense. Without any characters speaking for any background information, I found myself already invested.

During “Present Day” a young American woman named Alexis arrives in Cancun. Her archaeologist sister has gone missing, and no one seems to be searching for her. We know that the sister was on the verge of a great discovery, but that’s the last anyone heard. Alexis seems like a smart girl, but she can get a little shrill and annoying like when she’s shouting in English at the Mexican cop and seems offended when he doesn’t speak her language. Lucky for Alexis, almost every other character she encounters is fluent in English.

Our hero in this movie is a guy named Nico. Nico is sort of like a local Magnum PI only not. Nico has some mysterious past he doesn’t like to talk about, and that’s fine. When it’s brought up, I felt it was too forced. Most of the time, Nico likes to be good-looking, drunk and lazy. He’s got a bartender buddy who, per his job description, knows all and always gives sage advice. Here’s how we meet our illustrious hero without a last name:

Alexis and Nico meet while he’s recovering from an afternoon bender of girly drinks (the kind with the fruit on the top) and drunken beach wandering. It would seem that Alexis’s strategy for finding her sister is to ask every single person in Cancun whether or not they’ve seen her. It’s a thorough plan but not very time-sensitive. Nico is resting in a chair. He’s got his shades on and he looks very comfy. Alexis keeps talking to him before she realizes that he’s asleep. Heh.

Now I’m going to talk about our villains. I wish they had been a little more formidable. Michael Madsen of the groovy Kill Bill movies plays Lester. He’s supposedly a collector of Mayan treasures who moonlights  as an antiquities mob boss. Sure.  We are repeatedly told throughout the movie that Lester is dangerous and that Alexis’s search is stirring up trouble and attention. Um ok…

Lester is after that Mayan mask that was hidden away all those years ago, and the sister has been kidnapped by Javier to help find it. Most of the scenes with Lester involve him on the phone with his chief enforcer Javier having the following conversation:

  • Lester: “Have you found it yet?”
  • Javier: “No, but we’re very close.”
  • Lester at this point utters some kind of threat about what will happen if he doesn’t find it.
  • Javier repeats assurances that they will find the mask soon.

This is a good time to point out that characters in this movie buy into the whole end of the world 2012 theory. It’s brought up many times even though it has nothing to do with the central plot of the film. I’m not sure why. Maybe the filmmakers through that concept would make it more marketable with distributors. Who knows. Anyways, just mentioning it. The topic is a running debate between Nico and Alexis throughout the movie all the way to a kind of cheesy epilogue we could have done without.

Anyways, since I actually enjoyed this movie, I’m not going to share many more plot spoilers. But, I will point out some more things I really enjoyed.

  1. Cool supporting characters. Okay, so the villains were sucky. But the Wise Bartender was a pretty sly dude, and there’s a shaman friend of Alexis’s sister who can throw an awesome vision quest dance party.
  2. Nico. The character is really funny when he’s not trying to be serious. I liked him as  a sort of reluctant hero. There’s a good scene when he’s waking up from his visit to the Shaman’s cave and he sees his face in the mirror—he’s covered in tribal paint. It made me laugh.
  3. There’s a really good scene where Nico is questioning a member of the sister’s dig team (one that wasn’t kidnapped) about why she’s gone missing. The team member tells a wholesome story about going to church and his kids and being threatened by some man, but the footage shows a completely different, but true story where we see the team member get crazy drunk in a bar and then volunteer info to one of Javier’s men.
  4. The action sequences are pretty exciting and are shot really well. Again, the production value for this movie was really good.

And just to be fair, here are two things I really didn’t enjoy or understand:

  1. There is a scene with Lester on his boat. He has two members of the dig team with him and he keeps asking them where the mask is. Neither one knows, but that’s not good enough. Lester is about to shoot one of them when a boat approaches with great fanfare and many expensive crane shots. Actor Keith David is driving the boat. I’m not sure of the name of his character. This is his only scene in the movie, and yet he got top billing. From boat to boat, Lester and Mr. David chit-chat about various threats Lester could be making towards the dig team guys. Then, once that’s done, Mr. David, sails onwards to other adventures. There was no point to that scene at all!!!!!! None! Why was it there?  I just don’t understand why that was there.
  2. During one scene, Nico and Alexis are running from Javier’s men in the very same jungle we saw in the introduction. At one point Alexis is hiding near a tree. That’s when we get gratuitous giant spider footage. The offending arachnid is literally crawling up Alexis’s leg and there’s one in her hair too. I know the scene was called for since it ultimately flushes her out of hiding, but come on!! No one needed to see that!

Right, so as I’ve already said, I actually enjoyed Lost Treasure of the Maya. It wasn’t a super-duper movie, but if it came on TV, I might consider watching it again. That’s saying a lot. Of course, I was watching Troop Beverly Hills the other night, so please form your own opinions.

If you do watch the movie, and realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, you can play a little game called Find the Product Placement. I’ll give you a hint. There are 2 very tight closeups of Pepsi products early in the movie. These are followed by at least 4 Tecate beer placements. The beer shots aren’t quite as obvious as the Pepsi ones, but they were easy to spot and you can make out name of the beer each time.  By the end of the movie, you might even be a little thirsty for Pepsi or Mexican beer. That means it’s working.


About Andrea

Movie watcher; book addict; popular culture connoisseur; avid Tetris player. That's me!

Posted on September 8, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Dance Party in the Shaman Cave.

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