'Lana' Goes to Camp

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 21, 2004

I'm not one to get all worked up about Web reviews of current movies, but the headline above a posting on the Internet Movie Database about "Lana's Rain" caught my eye. "Great idea, terrible execution," it read. The anonymous critic, as it turns out, is half right about this abysmally bad Chicago-set drama concerning brother-and-sister refugees from war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s. The writer is, however, mistaken about this story of a man (Nikolai Stoilov) who forces his little sister (Oksana Orlenko) into prostitution being a great idea. Ripped from the headlines, maybe, but evidence of inspiration? Hardly.

That's because, along with taking its cue from actual news reports about transplanted Eastern European mobsters running American sex-slave rings, first-time feature director and writer Michael S. Ojeda's film also tears off more than a few pulpy pages from the dime-novel canon -- along with scraps of miscellaneous Harlequin romances and other lurid, melodramatic fare. From Stoilov's black eye patch, cruel sneer and animal-print sports coat to Orlenko's look of the helpless kitten and her character's poignant if doomed love affair with a sensitive-to-the-point-of-spineless sculptor (Luoyong Wang), "Lana's Rain" borders on the so-bad-it's-good broadness of "Mommie Dearest."

Clumsily under-written and feverishly overacted, it's as embarrassing to watch as it is perplexing, especially considering that it's being shown at Visions Bar Noir, an art house that should know better. From the opening voice-over narration, it's clear that "Lana's Rain" wants to be taken seriously. "One would think," Lana (Orlenko) intones, "if you traveled across the ocean to escape a land plagued by war, you couldn't smell the rotting flesh or hear the cries of innocent people led to slaughter. But you can."

I got news for you, baby. That smell isn't rotting flesh, and as for those cries of innocent people, they're coming from the audience.

LANA'S RAIN (Unrated, 107 minutes) -- Contains obscenity, violence, nudity and a sex scene. In English and Croatian with subtitles. At Visions Bar Noir.

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