Puerto Vallarta Squeeze (2006) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

(The date is ambiguous. The film was shot in 2002-2003, and completed in 2003. It was shelved until its video release in 2006. The DVD box says MMVI. )

Tuna's notes

Puerto Vallarta Squeeze is a love triangle/thriller set in Mexico. Craig Wasson plays an American writer living in Puerto Vallarta with his girlfriend (Giovanna Zacarķas), a small-town girl who used to work as a hooker. Wasson owns a National Book Award, but is currently broke and suffering from writers' block.

The two witness a double assassination performed by Scott Glenn. Next thing we know, a CIA honcho (Harvey Keitel) is on his way to Puerto Vallarta with a young assassin to take out Glenn. It turns out that Glenn had been on Keitel's team, and had performed one of the two hits under orders, but went rogue with the other hit, which was to settle a personal score. We learn that Glenn was the best of the best, is ruthless, but had good reason for what he did, and may not be evil personified.

Glenn approaches Wasson and offers an obscene amount of cash for a ride to the border. Wasson, despite knowing who Glenn is, agrees to drive him, perhaps to have something to write about, but his plan goes awry when Zacarķas insists on coming.  Since I am recommending this one, I will leave the plot there.

I liked this one. It kept me guessing because it avoided formulas. It had great pace, beautiful photography, and likeable characters. My favorite character was Mexico itself, which looked like a Diego Rivera mural in nearly every frame. I suppose one could complain that the plot wasn't very realistic, nor was the depiction of brightly painted poor Mexican villages very realistic, but sometimes you just enjoy the story, and this was one of them.



  • No features except the original trailer
  • the transfer is anamorphically enhanced, and is not especially vivid



Giovanna Zacarķas shows breasts in a well-lit bathing scene, and again in a dark love scene,

Craig Wasson and Scott Glenn show their elderly butts.

DVD Hardcover book

Scoop's notes

You'll never believe who wrote this thriller about an efficient but soulful CIA assassin ... Robert James Waller, king of chick-lit, the guy who wrote The Bridges of Madison County. Unlikely though it seems, I can see many parallels between the two stories, especially in the character of the CIA shooter, Clayton Price, the classic lone wolf with a hidden romantic streak, who is really not so far at all from the photographer Robert Kincaid in Madison County. Apart from the fact that one shoots with a camera and the other with a gun, both are tough, laconic, world travelers. Neither seems like the type to settle down. Both have managed to reach half-price-movie age without taking on a partner, falling in love, or even establishing a home, and yet they are not hard-hearted men, and there may still be hope for them if they meet the right woman.

"So is this film a love story?"

Well, yes and no. Maybe it is two love stories, both involving the same woman, but one works better for her than the other. The romance angle never really dominates, however, but works inside the thriller. It might better be described as a thriller which really tries to dig into the unique possibilities within every person. The film tries to turn the gender conventions upside down. There are two assassins in this film, both of them said to be cold-hearted and efficient, and yet they both turn out to be true romantics.

I found it an interesting and worthwhile watch, especially impressive for a straight-to-vid, but I wasn't as impressed as Tuna was. I thought Scott Glenn did a good job in the lead, and I feel that the film has an extremely promising script outline, but that the premise was dragged down by the specifics and the execution. Some examples:

  • I have not read this book, but the summaries indicate that the book makes it clear why the writer agreed to drive the assassin to the border, although he was aware that the man was a killer. On the one hand it was the money, but it was first and foremost a decision driven by the despair of having nothing to write about and the sudden elation of being handed a great yarn by providence. When one looks at it that way, he just about had to do it, because his writers' block was the driving force in his life. The movie seems to leave this very unclear, and therefore makes it hard to understand why the author would allow his girlfriend to come along on the trip without pulling her aside and telling her what she was getting into.  In fact, I have read some reviews which did not understand the point at all. One reviewer wrote, "Pastor and Luz, in desperate need of money, agree, not knowing that the Price is a former Vietnam veteran and CIA-trained assassin responsible for the murders." In reality, Pastor saw Price commit the murders, and knew he was the killer. That's one of the reasons why he agreed to be his chauffeur - something to write about. The intelligibility of that point was lost in the editing room. (The confusion was not really the fault of the reviewer, but of the script and/or editing.)
  • At one point the three travelers spend a night in a "tiny village" in the Mexican interior - but they check out of a hotel that looks very much like the Mexican-style Doubletree here in Austin, and is nicer than any hotel in nearby Temple, Texas, where I used to live. In another lost Mexican village, far from the main road, they stay in a hotel with a clean swimming pool. One of those hotels appeared to have a four star dining room. A tiny club in one of those tiny villages had Vicki Carr performing as a lounge act in the bar, and speaking perfect English! Hell, according to this story, the impoverished Mexican interior has tiny villages with far better accommodations and entertainment than good-sized towns in Central Texas. We should be moving there, instead of the other way around.
  • The three fugitives made no effort to hide their identities when checking into hotels, despite the fact that every armed man in Mexico was looking for them.
  • The CIA sent a 25 year old rookie to kill their top assassin, "the best and the brightest"? What made them think he would succeed?
  • Craig Wasson seemed to be completely inappropriate as the author with writer's block. The man is 50 years old now, and he's still acting like the same naive hippie wimp characters he was playing 25 years ago. The story would have worked better, in my opinion, if this role had been cast with someone who could have made the character more sympathetic. This guy was such a dweeb and a loser that I was rooting for his girlfriend to leave from the first minute of the film.
  • I sorta liked Giovanna Zacarias, and her authentic accent, but she could be very hard to understand - and it wasn't just me. I watched the film with the English captions for the hard of hearing, and even the guy who wrote the sub-titles often misheard what she said. (I was able to figure out the correct words from the context.)

A sad note: former child star Jonathan Brandis, the guy who played the young assassin, killed himself shortly after this film was lensed. He was 27.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews on file

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, Tuna says, "This is a high C+." Scoop says, "Depends on how you categorize it. As a thriller, I'd call it a C-: a decent watch as a time-killer, but with many silly aspects, and forgettable. If the category is "straight to vids," I'd buy into Tuna's C+. In this category it's one of the ten best I've seen, and was photographed beautifully with a substantial ten million dollar budget."

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