Ronnie Scheib|20 October 2011
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).