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MOVIE REVIEW

Road to Freedom

‘Road to Freedom’ is paved with inanity

Joshua Frederic Smith (left) and Scott Maguire play journalists covering the Vietnam War. Joshua Frederic Smith (left) and Scott Maguire play journalists covering the Vietnam War. (Bajan Vista Films)
By Ethan Gilsdorf
Globe Correspondent / October 3, 2011

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During the Vietnam War, film star Errol Flynn’s son, Sean, gave up an acting career to become a photojournalist. He went to Vietnam, where he helped break the story of the My Lai Massacre. In 1970, on assignment for Time magazine, he talked his way across the Cambodian border with fellow journalist Dana Stone. The two men disappeared, probably captured and killed by the Khmer Rouge.

“The Road to Freedom’’ aims to imagine their final days. Sean (Joshua Frederic Smith) is a libidinous loner-wanderer type, playing polar opposite to sincere and pious family man Dana (Scott Maguire). They putt-putt around the Cambodian countryside on little motorcycles, documenting atrocities. Oddly, these photojournalists don’t carry telephoto lenses or extra film. Still, every time a guerrilla guns down a peasant, we get a close-up black-and-white freeze frame that approximates what might have been a prize-winning shot.

Once captured, they are befriended by a fellow prisoner, Po (Nhem Sokun), whom Sean makes promise to “tell their story.’’ The delivery of this information to another journalist back in the capital, Phnom Penh, is meant to bookend the film with import. But the colleague (Tom Proctor) wields a foreign accent so weird that, instead, “The Road to Freedom’’ kicks off under a curious cloud of amateurism.

Unfortunately, beyond orchestrating crane shots sweeping over lush jungles and rice paddies, newcomer Brendan Moriarty is fairly clueless as a director. Most egregious is Smith’s performance. Worse than wooden, it’s flimsy as balsa, and more hollow than bamboo.

The clumsy, cringeworthy script, co-written by Margie Rogers and Thomas Schade, doesn’t help matters. “Maybe I am still searching,’’ Sean is forced to say. “But I know one thing’s for sure: Whatever’s going on here is bigger than you or me both.’’ One Cambodian woman must warp her mouth around lines such as “Cambodia, a once peaceful land, is now full of death and destruction.’’

Even the title remains perplexing - neither a road nor freedom figures in the plot.

A mere 20 years old when he filmed “The Road to Freedom,’’ Moriarty grew up in Cambodia. Clearly, he possesses a big heart and wants to tell a story of consequence. But this micro-budgeted “The Killing Fields’’ disappoints on almost every level, failing to win our hearts or our minds. But it does win some giggles.

Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at ethan@ethangilsdorf.com.

THE ROAD TO FREEDOM Directed by: Brendan Moriarty

Starring: Joshua Frederic Smith, Scott Maguire, Nhem Sokun, Tom Proctor

Running time: 93 minutes

At: Kendall

Rated: R (violence to bodies and normal speech patterns)

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