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The Independent Critic

Katrina Matusek, Ricardo Andres, Kurt Caceres, Elias John Castillo, Alex N. Gonzalez, Jessie Hedeby
Marco Santiago, Jr.

 "Xtraction" Review 
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Set in Afghanistan, Mexico and the Arizona suburbs, Xtraction tells the story Ronnie (Katrina Matusek), a hardened ex-military contractor who reconnects with her young daughter while attempting to rescue her from the hands of Rene (Elias John Castillo), a corrupt U.S. consulate in Mexico.

The film is set in the world of black market organ trafficking and against the backdrop of a family that has been fractured by the mother's professional distractions. Her marriage to Dave (Kurt Caceres) is strained and her 10-year-old daughter, Mckenna (Jessie Hedeby) has become increasingly distant.

With equal parts psychological drama and pure action thrills, writer/director Marcos Santiago Jr. has constructed a film that taps into both global issues and deeply personal ones. As Ronnie, Katrina Matusek is most convincing when she's kicking ass and figuring out how to get her daughter back from the people who don't particularly like to lose. She's less convincing in the film's more tender moments, though her fierce determination certainly plays well as a sort of buffed up maternal devotion.

Xtraction has already been an Official Selection at quite a few film festivals including Action on Film, HollyShorts, Phoenix Film Festival, GI Film Festival, Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, HBO Latino International Film Festival and New Filmmakers Los Angeles. Additionally, the short film has been invited to screen at festivals in Cleveland and Seattle.

In addition to Matusek's butt-kicking performance, Xtraction benefits from strong performances by Elias John Castillo as Rene and the particularly menacing Alex N. Gonzales as Manolo, Rene's enforcer. The real star of Xtraction, though, is the action and Santiago clearly has a knack for building well-paced and exciting action that builds the drama without going over the top. Brandon Kihl's production design is top notch, while D.P. Miguel Bunster accomplishes quite a bit despite the inevitable challenges of a lower budget indie short. Daniel Hamuy's original music complements the action quite nicely and Nathan Chiaravalle edits the film with an eye towards quick, pulsating cuts that maximize energy and force both physically and emotionally.

For more information on Xtraction, visit the film's website listed in the credits.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic