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Star - Stephanie Sigman
Genre - Action
Certificate - 18R
Run Time - 113 minutes
Country - Mexico
Blockbuster Rental- £2.00 per night
Awards - 0
Amazon -£.00 DVD (£.00 Blue Ray)
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The drug war in South America has forced the pressure point up through Central America into Mexico, now the brutal bottleneck, 38,000 people killed there in the last seven years alone, and the border towns taking the brunt of it. Americans demand for drugs is way higher than the body count as gangs with connections from all over the New World war over supply lines through Mexico right up to the US border. It is an horrendous situation the people have to live with as every single level of society is corroded by it, even the local beauty pageants, the subject of Miss Bala.
The star is sultry beauty Laura Guerrero (Miss Bala), the film loosely based on the true story of Mexican model and beauty queen Laura Zúñiga, who won the beauty contest Miss Sinola in the north of Mexico but then arrested for drug trafficking soon after on live TV. The film tweaks the real story with quite a twist to help drive the narrative and decides to play out some sort of metaphor of beauty and purity versus evil in Mexico to make its point on the terrible drug war in Mexico. Although messy and unsure at times it makes for a tense and oppressive action film idea though.
= = = Cast = = =
* Stephanie Sigman as Laura Guerrero
* Irene Azuela as Jessica Berlanga
* Miguel Couturier as General Salomón Duarte
* Gabriel Heads as Agent Bell
* Noe Hernandez as Lino Valdez
* James Russo as Jimmy
* Jose Yenque as Kike Camara
= = = The Plot = = =
23-year-old Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) and her friend Jessica (Irene Azuela) are heading out from their home town to audition for the Miss Bala competition, the prize to be the Queen of Baja California, a big deal in Mexico and a way out of their poverty.
After failing to get a competition number to compete after falling short on a technicality they decide to crash a seedy nightclub where they know there will be people there to help them get into the pageant. But the club is raided by armed men and three people killed. Laura manages to escape the mayhem and contacts the police for news of the now missing Jessica, only to be betrayed and handed over to the drug cartel that raided the club. A now terrified Laura has to do the mean looking drug boss 'Lino' Valdez (Noe Hernandez) and his gang a favor in return for help finding her friend, having to drive a stolen car to another raid, scary stuff.
Having no choice she completes her task, rewarded with no news on Jessica but entry into Miss Baja California after the gang twist the finger of the organizer. But the ordeal doesn't end there as Lino has taken a shine to the stunning daughter of a clothing merchant as she is dragged around the city in his black SUV for more favors, the likely reward actually winning the competition as these guys are well connected. The tension then cranks up five fold when the boss is injured in a shootout and hides out in Laura's fathers home; directing operations from there with his remaining gang.
Allowing her dad and little brother to leave on condition she remains it seems there is no way out of the drug war for Laura now, and the pageant is just two days away, Lino expecting her to compete, even though she is now traumatized from the last 24 hours. But when she finds out the truth about Jessica the dynamic changes and the film cranks up five more gears as the beauty queen is plunged back into reality. If there is a way out and why isn't she taking it, futility her excuse and oppressor.
= = = Results = = =
Ok, it's a bit Hollywood shootout when it should have been a bit more subtle but enjoyable all the same - if the brutal Mexican drug war can ever be that. The first imperfection is the films perfection, the stunning Stephanie Sigman, her over acting going through her full range of shock, fear, pain and horror facial expressions but never actually trying to get out of her situation, which makes no cognitive sense. Ok, she can't go to the police as they are corrupt and will just bungee her back to the gang but she could at least go stay with relatives for a bit.
But it's the way she begins to feel slightly comfortable with the gang leader in the film which is the films most uncomfortable truth. Do people take the easier drug corruption route in Mexico and so why the country is so messed up now? We know from the Holocaust that German and Polish villagers actually volunteered to help exterminate their Jewish citizens when the SAS came knocking. Is Mexico's drug war driven by the people, not the gangs, is the question the movie dare ask. The money is certainly better than working in Taco Bell.
The tempo builds nicely as we get to know Laura and her situation and the rather cliché Mexican drug gang she will be entangled with, allowing the film and director Geraldo Neranjo to flex his macho action muscles. Her somewhat frantic ordeal racing around Northern Mexico does get somewhat far fetched and the ending somewhat unacceptable in context of the movie but it's still a watchable and well made piece of Mexican cinema. We know the drug war is raging there yet little seems to be done about it, here the message very much that when you snort coke in a pub in your home town in the secure west someone dies over in Latin America to afford you that right. That is brutally realized in Miss Bala.
The film festival crowd loved it and it scored well at all the major festivals, including Cannes and The Goyas in Spain. It's not done tongue-in-cheek in anyway and violent, although not exploitatively so, the director not yet the master of his craft in what is a serious movie with real menace. What the director does realize is that if all eyes are trained on the stunning lead actress he can get away with those errors elsewhere. I fell for that trick yet again, Latin women by far the worlds most beautiful.
= = = = RATINGS = = = =
Imdb.com - 6.4/10.0 (4,175votes)
Metacrtic.com - 80% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 89% critic's approval
= = =Trailer= = =
= = = = Critics = = = =
NY Post -'This strange and eerie noir is more a collection of knockout scenes than a fully realized story.'
LA Times -'There is a larger message to be found here, but it never derails the taut vintage thriller that's been constructed'.
Wall Street -'"Miss Bala" is a portrait of a young woman who is at once terribly vulnerable and improbably brave. It's equally a vision of a vulnerable society on the road to anarchy.'.
Toronto Star -'Naranjo is unflinching in his determination not to serve up mindless entertainmen'.
Reeling Reviews -'It's clear Naranjo has a lot on his mind about the state his country has fallen into. If only he had a clearer narrative.
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