With echoes of everything from Mad Max to Payback, this grungy thriller rampages through Mel Gibson's back catalogue. But all of the swaggering attitude is just too much for a film that has absolutely no point to it.
After a breathless car chase on the US-Mexico border, an outlaw (Gibson) is thrown into a Tijuana prison known as El Pueblito, which is more like a run-down favela than a jail. His criminal mind immediately kicks into gear as he finds ways to survive by causing as much mayhem as possible. Soon he befriends a 10-year-old kid (Hernandez) whose mother (Heredia) is being exploited by the power-mad top-dog prisoner Javi (Gimenez Cacho). And our unnamed protagonist will need to use all of his wits to get out of here alive.
On the other hand, forget wit. The writers and director seem much happier to just have everyone blast each other into oblivion, indulging in a number of hyper-violent shootouts, plus a few grisly grenade explosions. Gibson's anti-hero is essentially an ageing macho thug who inexplicably develops a soft spot for the kid and his mum, so we know exactly where the plot is heading.
Throwing in a nasty little side-trip to San Diego and a gruesome liver transplant doesn't throw us off the scent.
But the lack of originality wouldn't be a problem if there was anything actually going on in the story. The narrative, characters and situations are so thin that we never believe a moment of it. So even if the production design skilfully creates the atmosphere of this squalid prison, and even though the performances aren't bad, there's nothing to hold our interest.
The grizzled Gibson adds a nice world-weary cynicism to the role, even if the character is never much more than a collection of movie cliches. But it's impossible to care whether he lives or dies, to say nothing about whether he gets away with the loot, since there's never the slightest question. And because the character and the movie itself are so joyless, the relentless violence, which is often horrifically misogynistic, quickly wears us out.