Andy Garcia and Forest Whitaker in

A self-serious eco-thriller assembled with a competent but heavy hand, "A Dark Truth" decries corporate corruption and Third World oppression in an all-too-obvious manner.

A self-serious eco-thriller assembled with a competent but heavy hand, “A Dark Truth” decries corporate corruption and Third World oppression in an all-too-obvious manner. Pitting three flawed but heroic individuals against a Canadian water-filtration-services company that’s sucking developing nations dry, writer-director Damian Lee’s leaden if well-intentioned whistleblower drama-actioner seems unlikely to generate more than a trickle in limited release. Still, the pic’s environmental slant and the involvement of Andy Garcia and Forest Whitaker could give it a VOD boost.

The ongoing privatization of the world’s water supply, an alarming subject addressed in such documentaries as 2008’s “Flow,” provides the grist for Lee’s fictionalized scenario. A nefarious Toronto-based conglomerate called Clearbec is aggressively expanding its services into South America and Africa, a process that involves seizing exclusive H2O rights, controlling villagers’ access to their water and teaming up with local politicians and militias to suppress protest, as seen in a violent, Ecuador-set massacre that opens the picture.

In this sequence and others that follow, “A Dark Truth” sensationalizes and trivializes the mass slaughter of innocents; by treating the villagers as so much rifle fodder, it unwittingly endorses its villains’ worldview. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of po-faced good guys waiting in the wings: Francisco Francis (Whitaker), a rebel activist hiding from troops in Ecuador; Morgan Swinton (Deborah Kara Unger), a conscience-stricken Clearbec shareholder determined to expose the company’s malfeasance; and Jack Begosian (Garcia), a very busy CIA operative-turned-disillusioned radio talkshow host-turned-globe-trotting investigator. Also, he neglects his wife and kid.

“Too many people have too much, and too many people have too little,” one character helpfully notes, lest any viewer miss the point of this solemnly topical yet hopelessly contrived story. None of what follows is especially surprising: Begosian tracks down Francis in the South American jungle, just in time for more bloody action-movie heroics, while a soulless Clearbec exec (Kim Coates, who exec-produced with Garcia) barks orders at various armed-and-dangerous heavies from his glassy corporate HQ. Perhaps the only character whose behavior beggars belief is Morgan, with her bizarre habit of soaking in the bathtub while fully clothed — a waterlogged metaphor, perhaps, for the Western imperialist soul desperately trying to wash itself clean.

Thesping is adequate, with Garcia and Whitaker striking up a warm if slightly ponderous rapport as two justice crusaders who still bear the scars of the past, and Unger is a moody, imperious presence as the chilly corporate baroness who suddenly decides to change course. William Steinkamp’s editing keeps the story jumping between Toronto and Ecuador (as portrayed by the Dominican Republic), though the individual threads, barely convincing in and of themselves, feel even less persuasive when juxtaposed. Other tech credits are fine.

A Dark Truth

Canada

Production

A Magnolia Pictures (in U.S.) release of a Rollercoaster Entertainment, Vortex Words + Pictures production, with the participation of the Canadian Film or Video Prod. Tax Credit, Ontario Media Development Corp., Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., in association with Movie Central, the Movie Network. Produced by Gary Howsam, Bill Marks. Executive producers, Jeff Sackman, Andy Garcia, Kim Coates. Directed, written by Damian Lee.

Crew

Camera (color), Bobby Shore; editor, William Steinkamp; music, Jonathan Goldsmith; production designer, Tony Cowley; set decorator, Jaro Dick; costume designer, Ton Pascal; sound, Cory Siddall; re-recording mixers, Keith Elliot, Steve Moore; special effects coordinator, Max MacDonald; visual effects supervisor, Darren Bell; visual effects, Intelligent Creatures; supervising stunt coordinator, John Stoneham Jr.; stunt coordinator, Layton Morrison; associate producers, Devon Bostick, Rick Chad, Joseph Drago, Jonathan Katz, Bryon Sievert, Richard Watson; assistant directors, Bruce Brenner, Jonathan Katz, Lindsay King, Rebecca Weber; casting, Stephanie Gorin. Reviewed on DVD, Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 2, 2013. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Andy Garcia, Kim Coates, Deborah Kara Unger, Kevin Durand, Lara Daans, Devon Bostick, Steven Bauer, Al Sapienza, Julio Mechoso, Eva Longoria, Forest Whitaker.
(English, Spanish dialogue)

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