FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 27, 2011
Director: Luis Estrada
Writers: Luis Estrada, Jaime Sampietro
Starring: Damián Alcázar, Joaquín Cosio, Ernesto Gómez Cruz, Mauricio Isaac, María Rojo, Elizabeth Cervantes, Salvador Sánchez, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Jorge Zárate, Isela Vega, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta
Benny Garcia (Damián Alcázar) moved to greener pastures — the United States — back when he was a teenager with hopes of becoming a successful Capitalist. Twenty years later he is deported back to Mexico — presumably due to the increasingly xenophobic immigration policies in the U.S. Upon his return to his hometown, Bennie quickly discovers that a pair of feuding drug lords have taken over the region; his younger brother (Tenoch Huerta) and several of his closest friends have died as a result.
Determined to remain on the straight and narrow, Benny begins working at his godfather’s garage; but as soon as Benny falls for a gorgeous prostitute (Elizabeth Cervantes) — the mother of his nephew (Kristyan Ferrer) — he discovers that there is only one way to support a family in Mexico. So, with the assistance of his childhood friend El Cochiloco (Joaquín Cosio), Bennie snags a well-paying job as a drug-running thug for the powerful drug lord Don José Reyes (Ernesto Gómez Cruz) .
Following Herod’s Law and A Wonderful World, El Narco is the final chapter in a trilogy of films by Mexican writer-director Luis Estrada. Loaded with blatant socio-political messages and heavy emotional drama, El Narco lacks the stylistic luster that some might expect from a Fantastic Fest film. Estrada’s film is a sardonically dark and cynical critique (thanks in no small part to the soundtrack’s relentlessly clever commentary on the action) of Mexico’s economic quagmire that reveals a dog-eat-dog world in which even the strongest and most corrupt cannot survive. Nature is certainly no help. Bennie’s hometown is separated from the rest of world by a endless span of barren and unforgiving desert; the secluded location has obviously made this place an easy one for everyone else to forget.
Despite its slow and meandering pacing, El Narco evolves into an incredibly violent film; but very little of that violence can be directly attributed to Bennie. Though Bennie dives headfirst into a life of greed and corruption, he never grows comfortable with violence. Bennie refuses to kill anyone in cold blood; the only victims of Bernie’s gunfire are people who threaten to kill him or his family.
El Narco smartly avoids glorifying any aspects of the gang lifestyle (even as a gangster, Bennie continues to condemn that way of life). Estrada also shies away from making any of the characters too cartoonish because keeping El Narco grounded in reality at all times is what helps keep his messages in tact. Estrada holds no punches and never hesitates to place blame where it is deserved — including several jabs at the United States for their role in making Mexico what it has become today. Mexico is hell (El Narco was released in Mexico as El infierno) and it is everyone’s fault.