Film - Left to Die

Without the aid of a stunt double, Ren Zelen took on the action thriller Left to Die but how did she, and the film, survive...

Director: Mark Atkins
Writers: Mark Atkins (story and screenplay) Natalie Burn (story and screenplay) Scott Martin (story) Ryan Priest (story and screenplay) Michael Thomas Slifkin (story)
Starring: Natalie Burn, Daryl Hannah, Jason London, Vinnie Jones, Edward Furlong, Robert Davi, Michael Paré, Christa Campbell, David Keith, Michael Copon, Daz Crawford, Augie Duke

While searching for her sister who disappeared in Mexico, ex-Special Forces agent Billie Kope (Natalie Burn) is kidnapped. She awakens to find herself marooned on a remote tropical island with no memory of her abduction.

Exploring inland, she comes across a group of survivors on the run from sinister black operations soldiers who hunt them down and abduct them for an unknown reason. The island prisoners all have similar stories about how they came to wake up on the island. Their tales involve spiked drinks, hotels and medical tests.

Billie teams up with the group of survivors, where her skills in Russian Special Forces combat help them fight their attackers. For Billie, the mystery of the island is somehow connected to the fate of her missing sister and when uncovered, will bring violence down on not only the island but the perpetrators of a diabolical scheme which is in continual need of fresh victims.

Actress Natalie Burn stars, produces and also assisted in writing the screenplay of Left to Die, which is one way of giving a talented woman the chance to display her impressive physical prowess and competence in an action role. Burn is a former ballet dancer from the Ukraine and she employs her training in the film to emphasize the physicality and credibility of her character's portrayal as an ex-Russian Special Forces Soldier.

It transpires that Billie was brought up by a taskmaster judoka parent, riddled with guilt at the death of her mother. Flashbacks show her father putting her through drills, shadow boxing and some fairly extreme psychological training, so when it comes time to kick ass against the paramilitary prison guards including the sadistic Vinnie Jones (again playing the character ‘Vinnie Jones’) — she is convincingly up to the task.

Asian movies have long been enthusiastic in showing female characters as exciting and interesting action heroines – it’s high time Western cinema caught up and developed decent opportunities for women with action skills. Plenty of pretty Hollywood actresses have been called upon to train for certain movies where they are required to kick ass, and they usually make a pretty good job of it, aided by a bit of camera jiggery pokery (which male action stars are also not averse to) but often these female roles are subordinate or in clearly unrealistic or even laughable situations.

Burn appeared briefly in last year's The Expendables 3 alongside Mel Gibson, but it is clear that this actress deserves to have more prominent roles. Hopefully, with the likes of more formidable onscreen female characters such as Mad Max’s Furiosa, women like Natalie Burn may get the chance to show their stuff to a larger and more appreciative audience, and I certainly hope to see more of her in the future. This girl is not short on sex-appeal but when it comes to the action scenes she is also more than capable of actually delivering the goods.

I’m not sure why this movie has undergone so many changes of title, the confusion won’t help distribution - it is currently known as Left to Die formerly known as ‘Awaken’ and before that apparently,’ A Perfect Vacation’. The movie boasts slick production values and a familiar and competent cast comprising of Daryl Hannah, who has successfully shed her former ‘pretty thing’ persona and gives another sinister performance alongside Jason London - a particular standout in a ruthlessly slimy performance, supported by Vinnie Jones and Robert Davi. Also, in case you miss him, we are graced with a startling appearance by a barely recognisable Edward Furlong being uncomfortably sleazy.

There are certainly some exciting and watchable moments, and at least one unexpected plot development, but Left to Die can't quite escape the shadow of the many films that inspired it. While there are just a few minor continuity flaws and some less-than-convincing dialogue and acting in the supporting roles, however good action scenes and pacing maintain the interest.

The movie may a while to get moving, rather as if it wants us to get our bearings as if we were drugged and ended up somewhere unexpected! However, when it gains momentum it is competently executed and certainly watchable, it doesn’t break any new ground but has is enough going in its favour to make it strangely entertaining and worth a look, if only to check out the action skills of newcomer Natalie Burn.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2016 All rights reserved.

Image - Amazon

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