Gerard Naranjo, the acclaimed young director and co-writer of the low-budget independent film “Miss Bala,” has a flair for freestyle action that should serve him well in Hollywood – if that’s where he wants to go.
Alas, he’s more than halfway there already. “Miss Bala” has been praised on the festival circuit for being a gritty look at the Mexican drug trade but too often it seemed like a bargain-bin “Scarface” to me.
Stephanie Sigman plays Laura, a young beauty in the running for the title of Miss Baja California before corrupt cops and drug thugs commandeer her life and her existence becomes increasingly nightmarish.
Some of the shootouts are effective and Naranjo sustains an atmosphere of floating dread but it’s essentially an exploitation film, art-house-style. Grade: B- (Rated R for language, some brutal violence, and sexuality.)