City Paper is not for tourists
Quite possibly the first ever Balksploitation movie, Lana’s Rain uses the horrors of the former Yugoslavia as a mere setup for the drudgeries of a low-budget American gangster flick. The story opens with two things that will be seen again and again: rain and the bloodied face of Lana, a pretty young woman who’s just watched her parents get killed. Now alone in the abattoir of Bosnia and Herzogovina, Lana (Oksana Orlenko) quickly locates the brother she hasn’t seen in 10 years. As it happens, Darko (Nickolai Stoilov) has made arrangements to exit the country in a shipping container, and he agrees to let his little sister come along. With remarkable ease, the two traverse Europe, the Atlantic, and half the United States before Darko throws open the container doors for a view of the Sears Tower. Lana is entranced by Chicago, but then her brother tricks her into becoming a hooker. Unable to speak English, Lana can’t escape Darko, even when Chinese-American sculptor Julian (Luoyong Wang) auditions to become her savior. Nor can she escape the script’s near-endless series of beatings, shootings, stabbings, and double-crosses. Yes, Lana’s Rain supposes itself a B-movie hymn to the contemporary American immigrant, and its cast is suitably international: Orlenko was born and raised in Ukraine, Stoilov is originally Bulgarian, and Wang began his career in his native China. Yet the movie’s spirit is parochial, and thus far the film has been nurtured almost exclusively by Chicago-born writer-director Michael S. Ojeda’s hometown crowd. (The Washington booking is only its second engagement outside Illinois or Indiana.) Orlenko holds her own no matter how preposterously convoluted and melodramatic the plot gets, and someday she may get a script that can match her dignity. In this hollow genre exercise, however, she’s as trapped as the character she plays.