4 items from 2014
★★★☆☆The third film from Mexican director Amat Escalante (Los Bastardos, Sangre), Heli (2013) could perhaps be accused of following the shoulder-shrug school of social commentary. An at times almost-unspeakably brutal portrayal of one young family caught up in a cocaine deal gone wrong, Escalante's Cannes prize-winner offers little respite for its titular factory worker, who finds himself horrifically tortured for his unwitting role in the theft of several parcels of prime marching powder. Neither does the filmmaker offer any fresh optimism for his country's future, torn apart as it is by corruption, gang violence and narcotics. And yet, Escalante still manages to evoke beauty through some exemplary visuals.
- CineVue UK
In Mexico there has been a lot of buzz surrounding Amat Escalante's third feature Heli. Yes, Steven Spielberg loved it at Cannes and Danny Boyle praised it at the Guanajuato Film Festival, but there's a large group of Mexican critics who aren't quite impressed. I'm right in the middle, as Heli hits me as an important piece that looks at the Mexican drug trade, but it also delivers weak acting, dialog, and a lazy conclusion. It feels less focused than Escalante's previous effort, Los Bastardos, and yet I'm pretty sure some of its scenes will remain with me for a long time. Heli is set in Guanajuato, Escalante's hometown, although that fact is never mentioned in the film. Hence we can say it's about any...
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So far onscreen, Mexican narcoculture has generated mostly grim documentaries, but given the carnage and the proximity, you can easily imagine the movies coming from both sides of the border: the mezzobrow hand-wringers, the trigger-joy gangster trips, the based-on-true-story crusades. What we might not have seen coming is something like Heli, a dead-eyed, lyrical art film that kicks you in the throat.
With his two previous films, Sangre (2005) and Los Bastardos (2008), Amat Escalante has been finding his way between self-conscious minimalism and ball-busting shock, and with Heli he strides ever closer to a war-zone balance, a style that dovetails poetic resonance and unblinking horror. In the meantime, he and his mentor, Carlos Reygadas, have red »
★★★☆☆Despite an audacious scene near its midpoint that will undoubtedly prompt much tongue-wagging, Amat Escalante's third feature, Heli (2013), is largely about just how commonplace unexceptional cruelty and bloodshed has become in his native Mexico. His previous film, Los Bastardos (2008), concerned a shocking act of violence committed impassively by two immigrant labourers in Los Angeles. On this occasion, that same callousness is a symptom of a national malady. Claiming the Best Director prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Escalante's Heli proves grim viewing that never quite locates a meaningful thesis above a desire to bear witness to Mexico's warped mentality.
- CineVue UK
4 items from 2014
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