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Mexico's most notorious drug lord schools a naïve journalist as to the principles behind The Cartel's success.



(story and screenplay)



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Cast overview, first billed only:
José Luis Franco ...
Angel Santana
Jules Land
Mauricio Islas ...
Dolores Santana
Rafael Oliveira ...
Ned Constantine
Officer Solana
Caronte (as Khotan)
Don Amilkar
Young Angel Santana
Humberto Elizondo ...
Pedro Santana
Tom Martino ...
Tom Donaldson
Eduardo Victoria ...


Based on Mexico's current criminal climate, EL CÁRTEL is a rare look into the values and practices of the world's most intriguing and enigmatic industry - the multi-billion dollar business of drug trafficking. When Jules Land, a naïve business journalist, approaches Mexico's most notorious drug cartel and requests an audience with its leader, a one-time-priest turned murderous cutthroat, he quickly realizes he's in over his head. Wanting only the chance to kick-start his struggling career, Jules goes from seeking to understand the principles behind The Cartel's success, to fighting to return home with his wits - and his life - intact. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In Mexico, nothing goes as planned.


Drama | Thriller







Release Date:

12 May 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El cartel  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$400,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Much of the dialogue and philosophies of the film's antagonist, Santana, were based on research and interviews conducted by the script's writer while participating in the research and production of the New York Times bestseller, "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't" by Jim Collins. See more »


No Nadie
Written by Edgard Jaude, Rafael Torres, Andres Ayrado
Performed by Andres Ayrado
Courtesy of 5 Alarm Music
See more »

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User Reviews

Cool Movie, Two Thumbs Up.
9 June 2009 | by (Los Angeles, California) – See all my reviews

EL CARTEL REVIEW by SAMPSON 411 While not perfect, El Cartel makes up for its flaws with ambition and quality. In short, "Cool Movie! Two thumbs up." 8.0/10 stars.

The story follows Jules Land, a mediocre journalist who follows a "once in a lifetime" story into the cartel-infested deserts of Mexico. Once across the border, he meets with Angel Santana, presumably Mexico's most notorious drug lord (and the antithesis of the swaggering, high-rolling, high-profile drug lords the likes of Pablo Escobar) and learns the inner workings of Santana's empire.

The Mexican actors definitely out-shine their gringo counterparts. The Hispanic actors, especially Santana (played by Jose Luis Franco) and Santos (Mauricio Islas), give great performances. The performance from the film's heroes, Jules (Freddy Douglas) and Vern (Howard Gibson), are less than commanding and both seem a bit "outgunned" by their Mexican co-stars. Fortunately, the mismatch in acting lends to the overall arch of the story (that of the bad guys completely being in control as they "school" the gringos about how the cartel does business).

The visual feel of the movie is clear and bright when necessary, but dark and gritty when called for. The locations and scenery are so impressive that, at moments, they seem to be part of the cast. The crew (particularly the location scouts, directors of photography, and lighting) gets accolades for coming through big time with the film's "look." A stellar grade is also awarded to the film's composer for his/her original score. It's not unheard of for a low budget independent to have GOOD original music, but it's rare (hint – please make a soundtrack).

El Cartel has it's own stylistic feel, and does something no other film has done. Each "chapter" of the film has a mini-lesson that is presented to the viewer as being one of Santana's rules of business. These rules are what has led Santana to his success in dominating the Latin American drug trade. The movie is "paced" by a countdown of these 13 business lessons, bringing the film to a head upon its conclusion as the "first" principle is finally understood by our hero, Jules. The idea works and is definitely cool (for example, some of Santana's business rules include, "Follow your passion" or "There's no such thing as a once in a lifetime opportunity").

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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