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When Benny Garcia (Damian Alcazar) is deported from the United States after 20 years as an illegal immigrant, he returns to his home town to discover it a battleground between warring drug cartels neither of which is adverse to police bribery, political influence, torture and mass murder. Reuniting with an old friend El Cochiloco (Joaquin Cosio), who acts as an enforcer and right hand man for the bloodthirsty Don Jose Reyes (Ernesto Gomez Cruz), Benny, seeking to discover the truth behind his younger brother's murder, is slowly absorbed into a world defined by rampant corruption.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When Benny (Damian Alcazar) asks Cochiloco (Joaquin Cosio) if he isn't afraid of going to hell for killing people in cold blood (after one such killing) Cochilico replies: "Hell? Hell is here. This f***ing life we're living is hell, no kidding," he adds for good measure. Mexican filmmaker Luis Estrada tells a story that may not be an actual true story, but it's hardly fictional and seems in parallel with the authoritative book (of the same title) on the Mexican drug wars by British journalist Ioan Grillo.

In many ways this is the bookend film to Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah (based on journalist Roberto Saviano's work), which slices open the puss infested world organised crime around Naples in Italy.

But here, warring drug cartels create the deadly violence, corrupt and ineffective authorities provide the blanket, poverty (and/or a lack of options) drives the desperate choices. It is set in Mexico, which has become one of the worst affected countries by the drug trade, but it's not the only one and it doesn't take much imagination to recognise the universality of the themes.

Estrada creates a world of corroded lives, inhabited by men stunted by greed and power or need and fear. But the women aren't all saints, either, manipulating their men and lying in pursuit of their own agendas.

All the performances are first class, and the production design is outstanding. It's brutal and brutally honest, deeply disturbing with its final scene a deadly forecast of how things continue. It's also a gripping crime thriller.

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(Mexico, 2010)

CAST: Damian Alcazar, Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Joaquin Cosio, Elizabeth Cervantes, Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Maria Rojo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Jorge Zarate, Salvador Sanchez, Angelina Pelaez

PRODUCER: Luis Estrada

DIRECTOR: Luis Estrada

SCRIPT: Luis Estrada, Jaime Sampietro


EDITOR: Webster Batista, Mariana Rodriguez

MUSIC: Michael Brook

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Salvador Parra, Maria Jose Pizarro

RUNNING TIME: 143 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1; DD 2.0

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Eagle Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 24, 2012

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