FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 24, 2011
Writer: Kapel Furman
Starring: Nicolas Trevijano
Polvora Negra starts with a prologue in which a woman and her brother run down a dirt road chased by two carloads of gun-wielding men. Eventually they are caught, shot and left for dead.
Years later… The brother — whose name is Castilho — has been hired by Merino for a “job.” Lacking an eye, but otherwise alive and well, Castilho has come to the small Brazilian town of Piedade to meet with one of Merino’s henchmen. He knows nothing about the job or Merino, and he certainly knows nothing about Merino’s family lineage.
It turns out that Merino is an evil gang lord who inherited his throne from his deceased father. Oh, and Merino’s father just so happens to be Castilho’s dead sister’s lover-turned-murderer. The convoluted plot lost me shortly after the prologue, but I think Merino is concerned that a new judge might rule some of his deceased father’s estate into the possession of an illegitimate daughter. (Not only is everyone in Piedade related, but they all seem to hold heavy grudges against each other.) Castilho happens to shack up in a brothel — for a bed to sleep in and some coffee, nothing else — where the illegitimate daughter lives/works. Somehow Castilho ends up trying to protect the brothel from Merino; a tidal wave of senseless violence ensues thus turning Piedade into a pool of blood.
Shot on a very tight budget in rural Brazil, first-time director Kapel Furman is undoubtedly inspired by Spaghetti Westerns (especially with its eccentric supporting cast) and Grindhouse cinema of yesteryear…or maybe he just worships at the altar of Robert Rodriguez. Unfortunately, Polvora Negra gets stuck in an unnecessarily complicated quagmire of way too many subplots; and although I love Castilho’s line about being an executive — the kind who is an executioner (it is incredibly difficult to refrain from mentioning Texas Governor Rick Perry right about now) — most of the attempts at humor-by-way-of-Grindhouse-cheesiness fall flat.