When her friend Nick Sakeris (Vincent Irizarry) whisks her off her feet and takes her to Ecuador for a short holiday Sandra Chase (Barbara Hershey) has a wonderful time. That is until she is about to return home and two sizeable packets of cocaine are found in her luggage at the airport. Unable to speak the language and with the US embassy all but washing her hands of her due to it being drugs it seems that Sandra has little hope of getting out and is becoming progressively sicker due to a long standing illness. But her daughter Tammi (Rachael Leigh Cook) won't give up on getting her mum out no matter what it takes.
Whilst "Left to Die" is based on a true story, and nothing should be taken away from what really happened, the movie comes across in a very familiar style with two sides. On one hand we get the endeavours of Sandra's daughter Tammi to get her mum out and we see the lengths she has to go to including being tricked by scammers to making things very public by going to the media. It is a side which relies heavily on Rachael Leigh Cook who whilst likeable always seems to look too groomed to be convincing as a woman at the end of her tether and it causes it to feel artificial as if someone insisted that Cook had to look good through out the movie.
But then there is the other side to "Left to Die" as we experience life in side an Ecuadorian prison where there is blackmail, beatings and little communities with the guards just as bad as the prisoners. It is extremely similar to what was shown in "Gringo" with Mel Gibson but alongside this we also see Sandra's health as it deteriorates and whilst she gets use to the way things work inside becomes ill. But again there is a side to this which has a commercial impact with scenes of prison life being tough but not repellently authentic, basically it feels made for a specific audience who enjoy true story movies but don't what the authenticity of real life.
What this all boils down to is that for those who enjoy made for TV movies "Left to Die" will most likely entertain, if entertain is the right word considering it is based on a true story. But those with an interest in prison movies might find this not gritty enough to really capture their attention as it is made for a specific type of viewer.