The savage Dominican Republic dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo has yielded many problematic films, ranging from Luis Llosa’s “Feast of the Goat” (2005) to Juan Delancer’s new attempt, “Tropic of Blood.” Marred by overacting, bland direction, overlit scenes and stodgy pacing, pic turns the final Trujillo years into a soap opera. Its slim commercial hope, mostly in Spanish-language cable, is the presence of star Michelle Rodriguez as heroine Minerva Mirabal, depicted here as crucial to the rebellion that ended the regime.
Like every other sequence, the opening one states things bluntly: Trujillo (an unconvincing Juan Fernandez in ridiculous makeup) literally owns the nation and treats women as his playthings. Educated, upper-middle-class Minerva will have none of it. Although Delancer dutifully lays out many of the actual incidents and figures among both the regime and the nascent rebellion (including Cesar Evora’s cartoonish turncoat-for-good, Antonio), his film reduces the issues to a battle between Minerva’s stubborn independence and Trujillo’s disgust that “the one organizing this plot isn’t wearing pants!” Final sections teem with torture scenes, the only ones that feel remotely authentic.