(R) One and a half stars

In the opening scene of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, a group of Mayan warriors kill a wild boar. As they’re dissecting the boar, one of the elder tribesmen says how eating different parts of the body brings special strengths. As a prank, one naive warrior munches on the bore’s testicles, much to the delight of the others.

So what we learn is that an ancient Mayan tribe is no different than the guys from Jackass? Thanks, Mel.

There are other reminders of other films in Gibson’s drawn-out and suffering epic. A stronger, more savage tribe attacks this Mayan tribe. The attack ranks right up there with Gibson’s Braveheart when it comes to intensity.

Once the men are captured, strung together by their necks to a pole, they must walk high and low to a village where they will be sacrificed. They walk for a long time. I haven’t seen this much walking in a film since Lord of the Rings. Once they arrived at the sacrificial site, I was done.

However, there’s a lot more to come. There are many moments in Apocalypto that were harder to watch than Gibson’s last film, The Passion of The Christ (a film I recommended, so back off). Passion just had the crucifixion. For most of Apocalypto’s two hours plus, it doesn’t let up.

Hearts are ripped out of chests. Heads are lopped off, picked up and tossed down the steps to the cheering crowd. Jaguars bite off people’s faces. A pregnant wife gives birth in a pit while rainwater fills up deeper and deeper. This isn’t a film. It’s an endurance test.

Or is it just another action movie set in a different time in a foreign language with unknown actors? Give credit to Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood); he makes the All Action Film Track Team. The last 45 minutes of the film has Jaguar Paw with a big hole in his side, outrunning eight bad guys and picking them off one by one through some serious forest.

Give Gibson (who also co-wrote and produced) credit for not making this film in English. There are two funny moments because of this. During the drawn-out walking sequence, a giant tree falls and almost kills a number of men and one warrior yells, “I’m walking here.” Somewhere, Ratso Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy must be smiling. Later in the film, one warrior tells another, “You’re fucked.” I guess the Mayans had a phrase of some kind that would mean that someone is screwed. If this film were done in English, it would have been silly and exhausting.

Watching Apocalypto was exhausting. Gibson pushed the envelope of brutality in Braveheart, The Passion of The Christ and now with Apocalypto. We get it, Mel, now try something else.

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