A straight-arrow New Mexico district attorney ventures south of the border in search of illegal organs for his dying daughter in "Inhale."

A straight-arrow New Mexico district attorney ventures south of the border in search of illegal organs for his dying daughter in “Inhale,” encountering sex, violence, corruption and cute, gun-toting kids with virgin sisters for sale along the way. Icelandic helmer Baltasar Kormakur (“101 Reykjavik,” “Jar City”) injects notes of hysteria into the script’s frenetic pileup of gratuitous cliches, as Dermot Mulroney pushes his square-jawed, desperate hero to near-masochistic extremes. IFC has skedded the psychological thriller for an Oct. 22 Gotham bow and simultaneous VOD release, repping the pic’s best alternative to direct-to-DVD oblivion.

Early on, Kormakur establishes New Mexico as the visual opposite of its southern namesake, Ottar Gudnarson’s airborne camera scanning cool stretches of blue-green verdure as Paul Stanton (Mulroney) drives home to his lovely blonde wife (Diane Kruger) and their little girl, Chloe (Mia Stallard), struggling with a lethal lung disease. Righteous D.A. Stanton, bucking popular sentiment, is rigorously prosecuting a Latino father for shooting the known sex offender who violated his son. But when he finds it impossible to legitimately obtain a pair of lungs, Stanton quickly goes rogue and blackmails his politically ambitious boss (Sam Shepard), himself the recipient of an illegal organ, into divulging his source.

Shifting into high gear, Stanton scurries off to Mexico, where he purchases a suitably “native” junkyard car and, armed with moral rectitude and the name of a black-market doctor, hits every two-bit hospital and clinic in Juarez. Rewarded for his diligence by getting badly beaten, he comes back for more and suffers a whole succession of degradations, from bribing officials to being forcibly serviced by a transvestite.

Walter Doty III and John Clafin’s hackneyed script depicts Mexico as one vast, interconnected conspiracy engaged in the underground organ trade, whose highest-ranked traffickers are — gasp! — Americans. To morally counterbalance the hoary genre conventions, the scribes throw in the parental panic of child-rescue pics like “John Q” or “Don’t Say a Word,” plus a heart-tugging bunch of homeless kids (called “los olvidados,” one doctor notes, as Luis Bunuel rolls in his grave) led by pint-size Miguel, aka Jefe (Kristyan Ferrer), Stanton’s sole ally.

Kormakur handles the action — which largely consists of the hero sprinting through labyrinthine spaces, bursting into rooms and stubbornly standing up to abuse — with enough panache and vigor to disguise its essentially passive, arbitrary nature. Miles from the oddball characterizations that populated his Icelandic films, Kormakur’s second primarily English-language outing (after the disappointing “A Little Trip to Heaven”) fails to bust its dramatis personae out of morally dictated, behavioral straitjackets, despite the presence of thesps like Jordi Molla and Rosanna Arquette.

Tech credits are pro.

Inhale

Production

An IFC Films release of a 26 Films presentation of a Blueeyes production. Produced by Jennifer Kelly, Nathalie Marciano, Michelle Chydzik Sowa. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Screenplay, Walter Doty III, John Claflin; story, Christian Escario.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Ottar Gudnason; editor, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir; music, James Newton Howard; production designer, Monte Hallis; costume designer, Katie Saunders; sound (Dolby Digital), Nerses Gezalyan; supervising sound editors, Victor Ray Ennis, Kenneth L. Johnson; re-recording mixers, Marc Fishman, Tony Lamberti; casting, Carla Hool. Reviewed at Magno Review, New York, Sept. 23, 2010. (In Hamptons Film Festival.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger, Sam Shepard, Mia Stallard, Jordi Molla, Vincent Perez, Rosanna Arquette, Kristyan Ferrer.
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