Billed as an “intense financial thriller,” Barney Elliott’s “The Debt” only achieves two out of three of those descriptors. The film does feature much discussion about complicated international financial deals, but the intense thrills are nowhere to be found.
Stephen Dorff stars as Oliver, an American hedge fund banker operating in Peru with a local associate, Ricardo (Alberto Ammann). The bankers have their eyes on exploiting Peru’s national land debt issues for their own profit. As Oliver’s boss, Nathan (David Straithairn) starts to question the worthiness of the deal, Oliver goes to extremes to get it done, while Ricardo only wants to help his people and nation.
Intersecting with this is are a story line about a nurse, María (Elsa Olivero), going to great lengths to get her mother a necessary medical treatment in a country whose social services are being pinched, and a plot that follows a llama shepherd and his son in a remote mountain village, Pampacancha — a lucrative plot of land battled over by various potential buyers, including Oliver.
The film takes far too long to get going — the disparate threads aren’t woven together until over an hour into the film. Despite its best efforts to be thought-provoking, the film is dramatically inert, slow and its revelations aren’t all that politically illuminating, relying on coincidence and worn tropes to obfuscate its lack of ingenuity.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills