By Bruce Ingram/For Sun-Times Media
It’s a given, most likely, that no one is going to associate what goes on in the business end of an EMT ambulance with fun and frivolity, but the stuff that goes down in this dark, dismal little thriller takes grim reality to nasty new extremes.
Actually, it might be a bit of a stretch to think of the increasingly outlandish developments in “Panic 5 Bravo” in terms of realism. But grim? Wow, it’s got grim covered.
After a brief prelude establishing the happy home life of paramedic Alex (Mexican writer/director Kuno Becker) with his beautiful wife (only to provide a harrowing second-act plot complication), Becker takes us inside the Alex’s ambulance on the US/Mexico border and that’s where we remain. In the ambulance, that is, not on the border. On a slow night, Alex convinces the other three EMTs to go 100 illegal yards across the border to rescue a shooting victim who’s dying in front of their eyes. That plan doesn’t sit well with the cartel guys who shot him, however. So they ram the ambulance and lay siege to it, assuring everyone inside that they will die if they don’t hand over their patient.
If you’re wondering why it would be necessary to lay siege to an overturned vehicle instead of merely shooting out the windshield and saying “gotcha,” well, that’s only one of the nagging logical gaps troubling ‘Panic 5 Bravo.” If you can accept it as a given, though, Becker does a nice job (within the limits of his very-low budget) in terms of handling action and ratcheting up suspense. Sadly, the long stretches of clunky dialogue, featuring increasingly far-fetched personal revelations, work less well. Meanwhile the situation turns increasingly ugly with the introduction of torture, rape and up-close-and-personal murder.
The point of the exercise, it seems, is to trap four seemingly decent people, all more or less friends, in a dark, claustrophobic, pressure-cooker environment to see how they respond to the threat of imminent death — or worse. Spoiler alert: human nature doesn’t get a thumbs-up in this one.
The take-away message of “Panic 5 Bravo” is that idealism is for chumps and nihilism trumps. “Good things happen to good people,” Alex opines halfway through, but Becker has other ideas.
Pantelion presents a film written and directed by Kuno Becker. Running time: 84 minutes. Rated R (for strong bloody violence, a sexual assault and language throughout). Opens Friday at AMC Showplace Cicero 14.