Katrina (Carmen Ejogo) and daughter Clara (Emma Greenwell) are exhausted from their long road trip and not exactly thrilled when their van gets a flat tire on a deserted road in the desert. Katrina gets busy with the jack while Clara goes off to play, meager is her playground. It may not surprise you that what she finds out there is a nasty snake bite, and the poor kid’s already turning blue when Katrina chooses between her three-wheeled van and a dilapidated trailer (has that been there the whole time?). Luckily for her, the woman in the trailer has some experience with snake bites, and by the time Katrina gets the spare on the van, Clara’s actually looking a bit better. Katrina rushes her off to the hospital with barely a backwards glance never mind a thank you to the lady who saved her kid’s life.
At the hospital there’s a bit of a surprise: there is no snake bite. Clara is fine. But before you can celebrate, a weird guy shows up to tell Katrina that whatever bargain’s been struck requires payment. A life for a life, or thereabouts and if Clara’s going to continue to live, then someone else has to die.
This movie stressed me out mostly because Katrina is really bad at murder and she makes a lot of frustrating choices. Which apparently means that I think I would be better at murder than she is. Which is a low bar, mind you. So I guess this movie has two intellectual points of interest: 1. what would you do for your child? 2. could you take a life? Which is two more intellectual points of interest than it has cinematic points of interest. Is your math pretty sharp? Did you come up with zero? Because I sure did. Katrina can hardly take a life when she does not appear to have one of her own – she barely seems to exist outside the movie, which makes the stakes feel low and our emotional investment seriously superficial. But the direction is also extremely by the book. There’s nothing visually interesting, the editing is unspectacular, the whole thing feels like an example of a movie rather than a movie [insert better movie here].