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THE HARVEST (1994).

It's rare to find a truly original thriller nowadays -- one that takes the viewer into uncharted territory. But director David Marconi pulls it off in this mix of exotic characters, snappy dialogue and a deadly conceit involving an underground conspiracy. Miguel Ferrer (usually typecast as a sarcastic supporting villain) stars as Charlie Pope, a hack scriptwriter who travels to South America to research a contract killing and gets more than he bargained. On the positive side, he encounters a sexy American blonde (Leilani Sarelle) who immediate takes a liking to him. On the other hand, his writer's block is worse than ever, plus he wakes up one morning in a makeshift hospital bed, with a ragged scar across his back and one of his kidneys missing. The poor schmuck's an unwilling volunteer in the black market organ trade, and when they come back for his second kidney (hence the title), Charlie has to run for his life from the inhospitable local cops and a bevy of eccentric assassins, while doing his best to determine who in the cast isn't in on the scheme. All this is captured with a vaguely surreal edge, including dream sequences, flashbacks, and a wicked sense of pitch black humor. Above all, what makes the film spark is Ferrer, who chews up the role and spits it out. He's not your typical movie hero by any means -- the guy's a snotty, drunk Ugly American -- but in comparison to the rest of the warped cast, he's practically a saint. Adding to the erotic tension, Sarelle smolders as the object of Charlie's passion. This is a film that isn't afraid to take chances, beginning with a B-movie premise, then creating its own set of brutal rules which always keep the viewer guessing. The result is a sharp, paranoid vision of a society where humans have become saleable commodities and everyone has a price.

© 1995 by Steven Puchalski.