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Mel Gibson's notorious tirade against Jews highlighted not only his bigotry but his preoccupation with tribal conflict, which finds a more benign expression in this heart-pounding epic about the collapse of Mayan civilization. The production design is superb, and the actors deliver their dialogue in subtitled Yucatecan Maya, but despite all the anthropological drag, this is really just a crackerjack Saturday-afternoon serial. After a jungle village is overrun by vicious Holcane warriors, three friends are taken prisoner and marched over mountainous terrain to roiling Maya City to meet their horrible fate. An extended chase sequence in the latter half grows increasingly silly, but the deus ex machina Gibson uses to resolve it is a masterstroke of historical wit. R, 137 min. a Century 12 and CineArts 6, Chatham 14, Cicero ShowPlace 14, Crown Village 18, Davis, Ford City, Gardens 7-13, Lake, Lawndale, Norridge, River East 21, 600 N. Michigan, 62nd & Western, Village North, Webster Place.

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