Obsessed with tracking him down and getting an interview, Michael Coleman (Henry Czerny), an American reporter for a Rio newspaper, begins to call in favors. He has a long-distance love-hate relationship with the priest, skeptical of his altruism but enamored of his powerful personality.
While the land-grab forms the backdrop, the film concerns itself with political machinations and the sometimes reckless power of the press: The extremes to which Coleman is willing to go to get his man are chilling. Ultimately, he will abuse his position and inadvertently do the most effective thing to stop the exploiters.
Tyro feature filmmaker Monique Gardenberg effectively fuses Brazilian and American elements. Though slow to reveal its intents, pic builds rapidly in its second half to a scathing, ironic conclusion.
Cast as an unconventional, generally unsympathetic protagonist, Czerny delivers a clever, sleight-of-hand performance. Bauchau’s casting — a sharp contrast to his typical Euro-trash parts — provides his character with an edge that makes Coleman’s odyssey, if not justifiable, at least discernible.
The supporting ensemble of Brazilian actors provides a rich cross-sectional fabric of the mighty, downtrodden and ugly of the diverse society. At times strident and clumsy, visually elegant pic has an underlying veracity that surmounts its foibles. Philip Glass contributes a haunting score.
Title derives from the name of a sweet, though potent, liqueur from Bahia. The analogy is a bit of a stretch and a tad poetic, but the film lingers in a considerably more pleasant way than the after-effects of too much of the potable alluded to in the movie moniker.