'Cargo'

A low-budget feature concerning America's underground sex-slave industry, "Cargo" necessarily walks a fine line between exploitation and social expose.

A low-budget feature concerning America’s underground sex-slave industry, “Cargo” necessarily walks a fine line between exploitation and social expose. Yan Vizinberg’s debut assumes the viewpoint of a sample victim, the human “cargo” of the title, imprisoned in a van being driven cross-country by a hired Egyptian transporter. A mainly minimalist two-character exercise that resorts to last-minute action-movie tropes in its underwhelming finale, the pic preems at Gotham’s Quad Cinema Oct. 21. Its provocative subject matter, though seriously treated, qualifies it as a dark-horse candidate for latenight cable.

Gutsy Russian waitress/dancer Natasha (Natasha Rinis), misled in her quest for a U.S. green card, awakens on the dingy cellar floor of a Texas farmhouse alongside other drugged female abductees. Shipped to Brooklyn, Natasha repeatedly, painfully struggles to extricate herself from bondage — trussed up with a leather belt in the back of the van by the driver (bearded, bearish character-actor Sayed Badreya) or forcibly duct-taped to the passenger seat beside him. Lenser Vizinberg’s impressionistic tunnel-vision location shooting proves more compelling than the religious discussions between lapsed Catholic Natasha and her observant-Muslim captor, or the film’s evil Russian human-trafficking ringleader (Philip Willingham).

Cargo

Production

A Chameleon Entertainment release of a Persona Films production. Produced by Abigail Honor, Chris Cooper, Yan Vizinberg. Executive producer, Yuriy Boykiv. Directed by Yan Vizinberg. Screenplay, Vizinberg, Lee Peterkin.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Vizinberg; editor, Abigail Honor; music, Michael Whalen. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Oct. 18, 2011. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Natasha Rinis, Sayed Badreya, Philip Willingham. (English, Russian, Arabic dialogue)

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more