Tuesday, January 31, 2012

01-22-12: Caught between a Pageant and a hard place

MISS BALA (2011) (R) 113 mins. ***1/2 (Spanish with English subtitles) D: Gerardo Naranjo. Stephanie Sigman, Noe Hernandez, Irene Azeula, Jose Yenque.

A teenager who hopes to enter the Miss Baja beauty pageant finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes an unwilling pawn in the Mexican drug war.

This solid dramatic-thriller presents a fairly realistic portrayal of the drug war taking place in Tijuana, Mexico. It is unfortunate that innocent victims become pawns in their nefarious dealings. Laura is a young woman with dreams and aspirations. When she is pulled into the drug world you find yourself hoping she gets out of this somehow. As the film progresses, the situations she is put in become increasingly dangerous and deadly. Her only choices are life or death. Do as she's told she'll live. Disobey and its a death sentence. However her dilemma is that some of her dreams are being realized thanks to this association. But is it a fulfilling achievement or an empty one? How much is she willing to take?

Well written, acted and directed, the film has a few surprises and some tense moments. If you've seen the news reports of what's going on in Tijuana then you know much of this isn't farfetched at all. The lengths the cartels will go to achieve their goals is not as shocking as how far and deep their influence goes. This is an intriguing and frightening look at the hell that this city and country go through on a daily basis. In the end, there seems to be no end and sadly there will always be another Laura just around the corner.

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