By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Sep 15, 2007 at 5:24 AM

Hotel heiress Fernanda (Diana Garcia in her big screen debut) is getting date raped by her ex-boyfriend (Emilio Valdes) and seems to be enjoying it. Meanwhile, he's scheming to rip off her wealthy dad -- again.

Middle-aged Jaime (Fernando Becerril) has just stolen his company's payroll, left his family and booked a room at the beach in preparation for his impending suicide.

Fifteen-year-old runaway Tigrillo (Miriana Moro, the film's producer) occupies her days with her street-hooker posse swindling horny American men out of money by offering "a massage and oral relation" in broken English.

It's one hell of a day in Acapulco, Mexico, or, it's just an average one. Director Gerardo Naranjo's presents you with these illicit circumstances and lets his audience decide if it's a series of random, seedy situations somehow intertwined or the just the usual dark underbelly of a tourist paradise.

Naranjo's second feature film, "Drama / Mex" takes on the challenge of creatively intersecting all three characters' stories as sketchy vignettes, a la the Alejandro González Iñárritu movies, "21 Grams," "Babel" and "Amores Perros."

It's a shame to compare the two directors, since González Iñárritu is vastly more acclaimed, yet it's too obvious not to.

That's not to say Naranjo fails by any means. His triple threat of sexual innuendos, smarmy, illegal behavior and bad decisions makes for a compelling, interesting ride through 24 hours on the "Crapapulco" beach. And unlike "21 Grams" and the others, "Drama / Mex" draws a decidedly easier path between the characters' lives.

What's interesting is the even-keeled perspective the film takes. Despite alluding to things such as incest (Jaime's daughter comes on to him as he's leaving the house), rape, prostitution, "Drama / Mex" never really makes any accusations nor pushes for sympathy, despite just about every character existing within extremely desperate conditions.

Even the young Tigrillo is seen one minute as selfish, conniving and manipulative, and another minute as developing a genuine interest in the man she ripped off just hours before.

By the film's end, it doesn't matter how you feel about its characters, it's more important to understand their underlying connection. 

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”