Film in review – “Panic 5 Bravo”

Panic 5 BravoThis movie is very difficult to watch at several levels. The personal violence is bloody and brutal, even tortuous. The characters are not sympathetic, and the more we know them, the less we like them. There are big holes in the plot line, and the viewer is left with many unanswered questions.

And yet, as a tight little morality play within enclosed confines, you can’t beat the inside of an ambulance. Director/writer Kuno Becker has a point to make and a graphic story to tell.

It begins with a handsome man, Alex (Becker), in bed with a beautiful woman, Felicia (Sofia Cisniega). They murmur sweet nothings as he awakes for work, and she sends him off with a sleepy kiss. They are obviously in love, and he even shows the viewers the ring he intends to give her when he returns.

Work that day is slow for this crew of American paramedics stationed right on the Mexico border. There’s the driver who’s about to retire, the woman riding shotgun who’s a hard-edged excitement junkie, the “newbie” who passes himself as a rich guy seeking to do some good for humanity, and our hero, Alex, the one with the conscience. He’s the one who sees the guy bleeding on the road, just on the other side of the border. He’s the one who tries to convince the others that they really need to go over there and render aid. Yes, it’s across the border, where technically they don’t have any jurisdiction. But are they just going to sit here and watch him bleed out, then go to dinner?

Finally, they all decide to go help, but this is a place where no good deed goes unpunished. It turns out that some gang members had intentionally left the bleeding man there to see who might come to his rescue. It seems the man was a “mule,” carrying drugs, and the cartels are, as always, disputing over territory and control of the lucrative drug trade.

The whole scenario, of course, raises a lot of questions that nobody really wants to address. Why is the U.S. so willing to allow all that violence on its border? And exactly why do we allow so many border crossings, and then later wring our hands over what to do with “illegal” immigrants?

And, of course, there’s always the larger question of who gets medical care and who pays for it. Yes, here are a couple of the biggest social issues of our time: medical care and immigration, both played out in a violent little vignette inside an ambulance among a paramedic crew that’s something less than angelic. But it sure feels gritty and real, despite the heavy-handed approach and the low-budget limitations. This one will make you uncomfortable at many levels.


RONALD P. SALFEN is the parish associate at Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.


Click here to read Ron Salfen’s interview with Kuno Becker