In this two-fisted melodrama, the debacle of the Bay of Pigs invasion is only the start of the troubles facing a luckless Cuban counterrevolutionary who, following the awful kidnapping of his beloved daughter, becomes the frustrated puppet of a nasty KGB officer.
Atcho, the son of a wealthy Cuban landowner, lost everything—including his wife and father—when Fidel Castro and company seized control of his tiny island homeland. Since then, the naturally embittered hero has valiantly tried to shield his surviving child, Isabelle, from further harm, while he leads a small band of counterinsurgents equally committed to tossing out the cigar-chomping communist. However, for the anti-Castro crowd, betting on the United States to fully back their play turns out to be a bad move: Atcho is ultimately captured and summarily sent to a series of hellish island prisons. West Point–educated and almost supernaturally gifted in the art of combat, he manages to survive decades of incarceration and a failed prison break only to confront an even bleaker reality being orchestrated by Govorov, a KGB heavy. Part war saga, part prison drama, this sometimes adrenaline-fueled adventure yarn is loaded with punchy prose: “Atcho sprang. Cupping his hand over the guard’s mouth, he pulled the man down and broke his neck.” Too quickly, however, Atcho’s bone-breaking odyssey loses its footing on the slippery slopes of soap opera–like setups best exemplified in the mushy relationship between father and daughter. Initially loving and welcoming, long-lost Isabelle considers flipping on dear old dad, seemingly at a point when some interpersonal drama is deemed necessary to counterbalance all the shooting and neck-breaking. Marinating in his own twisted machinations, and endlessly self-satisfied, Govorov also suffers from a stock portrayal that relegates him to the ranks of so many other dastardly but unexamined villains. Atcho is at his best when he’s being Atcho—taking names and kicking ass.
Highly enjoyable when in all-out-action mode, though it tends to get stuck in the lower gears.