After seeing the current crop of thrillers, it’s tempting to put the genre on the endangered-species list. In fact, a good adventure caper is so scarce these days that movie buffs will show great patience with a promising movie--as long as the payoff finally arrives. “Aha!” you say. “That’s why that strange woman with the racing stripes on her purse came rushing out of the deli with a can of brake fluid instead of a corned beef sandwich.”

Unfortunately, “Down Twisted” (citywide) is utterly lacking in any such revelations. In fact, it’s so awful that it’s impossible to figure out just what talented young director Albert Pyun thought he had up his sleeve. Was this woeful film supposed to be a frisky, offbeat thriller about a pack of double-crossing art thieves? Or was it a deadpan, damsel-in-distress spoof? (Pyun claims it was inspired by Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” though it seems to have more in common with a third-rate knockoff of “Buckaroo Banzai.”)

In any case, “Down Twisted” emerges as a misbegotten mess. There are so many elaborate plot twists and character reversals--none adequately explained--that after a while it becomes apparent that no one’s ever going to figure out what’s happening. The young lady in jeopardy is Max (Carey Lowell), an innocent egghead who finds herself caught up in an elaborate scheme hatched by her roommate, Michele, and her boyfriend, who swindle an elegant gangster out of a priceless artifact the three have stolen from the banana republic of San Lucas.

After that, it gets really complicated. Max is abducted, flown to San Lucas, wakes up on a yacht, knocks half the crew overboard, swims to shore, scampers through the jungle, gets questioned by the local militia, escapes with a lawyer who’s really an insurance investigator (well, he’s really a soldier of fortune but that’s another story), faints, wakes up in a saloon, discovers there’s a carnival in progress . . . and that’s just in the first half-hour!

Lowell is an engaging young actress who has a few nifty scenes with Charles Rocket, who plays the lawyer-investigator et al. But the jokes are so cheesy and the story so incomprehensible that we never get caught up in the merriment. It’s always fun when movies fool us with fake finales. But “Down Twisted” (MPAA-rated R for occasional violence) is all fake, from beginning to end.