The intriguing concept of a murderous, blackmailing building super who rifles through residents’ mail and garbage is an urban American nightmare brought to life in “Shortcut to Paradise.” Shot in Puerto Rico in English by Spanish helmer Gerardo Herrero, script has a transplanted feel it never quite shakes off. This routine thriller will probably head quickly to TV and video.
Looking for a secure hideaway where he can drop out of sight for a while, a man (Charles Dance) kills a fellow who’s on his way to take a job as super at the rundown Paradise Condominium, and assumes his identity. He introduces himself as Quinn to lonely condo manager Lona (Gladys Rodriguez), but when she later sniffs out the truth, she literally ends up in the garbage. Though he smells like a baddie from a mile away, Quinn ingratiates himself with just about everybody except sensitive young gas station attendant Gus (Morgan Weisser). Gus’ best friend is Sara (Katrina Gibson), a young teen who attracts Quinn, too. The trusting girl and her mom (Assumpta Serna) don’t sense the danger their super represents until it’s too late. In a protracted and fairly exciting climax , Gus and Quinn battle over the girl.
Dance makes a scary super, using cunning intelligence to gain power over the neighbors and disarm adversaries like Gus psychologically. His obvious (if ambivalent) affection for Sara at times makes him more sympathetic than Serna’s character, a swinging single who comes on to the underage Gus at all the wrong moments. Gibson, who looks like a young Brooke Shields and bursts with joyful energy, is out of step with Weisser’s finely subdued perf as the disturbed Gus.
The exotic Puerto Rican backdrop — actually underused and never named — provides attractive visuals for Alfredo Mayo’s camerawork.