Film Review: A Dark Truth

There are many roads to hell, and <i>A Dark Truth</i> travels the one paved with well-intentioned efforts to wrap complicated social/political issues in genre movie clich&#233;s.

Tayca, Ecuador: A quiet town becomes a killing field when heavily armed soldier military roll in and begin cutting down unarmed men, women and children; American Tony Green (Steven Bauer), who works for Canadian conglomerate Clearbec, and his assistant, local Reynaldo (Devon Bostick), are helpless witnesses to the carnage.

Reynaldo makes his way to Canada and commits suicide in front of heiress Morgan Swinton (Deborah Kara Unger), whose father founded Clearbec, now run by her brother Bruce (Kim Coates), at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. His last words are an appeal to uncover the truth about what happened in Tayca.

Morgan goes to her brother, who tries to fob her off with platitudes: Clearbec is on the verge of closing a huge deal involving water rights in South Africa and a hint of scandal could derail it. But Morgan has been well and truly shocked out of the vague haze in which she's been cocooned for years and hires liberal talk-radio gadfly Jack Begosian (Andy Garcia) to go to Ecuador and find out what the hell is going on. He resists, but between the load of guilt he carries from his days as a CIA field agent and the big bucks Morgan is offering—money that could help secure proper treatment for his troubled child—he agrees.

The mission boils down to finding American-born eco-activist Francisco Francis (Forest Whitaker), who has hard evidence that one of Clearbec's water-treatment plants is directly responsible for an outbreak of super-typhus and that the Tayca massacre was designed to get rid of victims and witnesses. But Francisco is on the run with his Ecuadoran wife (Eva Longoria) and their children, and Clearbec has bought enough politicians, cops and soldiers to make getting the Francis family out of Ecuador alive one tough proposition.

A Dark Truth wears its convictions on its sleeve: It's morally wrong to plunder the natural resources of poor countries for the sole purpose of making multinational corporations richer. Wrapping that message in an action-packed thriller—the kind of movie that appeals to the gut—no doubt seemed like a good idea: Inform and entertain at the same time. Granted, A Dark Truth isn't very entertaining, despite the best efforts of a solid, if not exactly star-studded, cast. But the problem is less that it fails to deliver slick, larger-than-life mayhem on a blockbuster scale than that message movies generally play best to the converted. If Sylvester Stallone's bone shattering, star-driven, 2008 Rambo reboot couldn't galvanize his fans into demanding an end to human-rights abuses in Burma, what could?