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  Perdita Durango Quite The Pair
Year: 1997
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Stars: Rosie Perez, Javier Bardem, Harley Cross, Aimee Graham, James Gandolfini, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Demian Bichir, Carlos Bardem, Santiago Segura, Harry Porter, Carlos Arau, Don Stroud, Alex Cox, Miguel Galvan, Regina Orozco, Roger Cudney, Erika Carlsson
Genre: Thriller, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mexican Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez) is in the United States to scatter her sister's ashes, but that does not prevent her being hit on at the airport by some presumptuous guy who she sends packing with a few well-chosen words. Once she has done what she set out to do, she heads back to the border where she happens to meet Romeo (Javier Bardem), a man who has recently completed a successful bank robbery in America and is bringing both his spoils and a dead body back to Mexico, for he has a sideline in voodoo ceremonies. There's some animal magnetism about him that Perdita finds appealing, so she decides to stick by him...

The movies are littered with couples on the run, be they a folie a deux or something more professional, and at first glance there was little to distinguish Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia's reprise of the themes and general anything goes tone of Wild at Heart, the David Lynch and Barry Gifford film that had introduced Perdita to the world in the person of Isabella Rossellini. It says something that this was the last we saw of her too, for unlike the Lynch movie it did not make much of a splash, though there were those who caught it at the time and intermittently since who have expressed a fondness for it, in all its wayward excesses and dubious choices.

It was clear the director here was out to shock, and possibly regarded this as his opportunity to cross over to the Hollywood audience after establishing himself as a horror movie creator in Spain, though as it was that did not happen, and he returned to Europe thereafter where he carved out a successful career for decades afterwards. But if you wanted to be shocked, this was lurid enough to accommodate you, a heady mixture of sex and death that nevertheless never felt as if there was an actual plot in danger of appearing any time soon. For much of the running time it was like a preamble to something more substantial that never quite showed up.

But if for most of the excessive two hours plus running time it resembled a series of sex and death setpieces that never coalesced into a proper plotline, there was a lot to be said for the style it went about its mayhem. Coloured in hues of burnished gold as the Mexican desert dominated the imagery, you could almost sense the heat in this climate, and Perez and Bardem certainly enjoyed chemistry with each other where their lust convincingly translated into a deeper love that was at least halfway believable, on Perdita's part anyway. What some audiences had problems with was the white American couple they pick up on the journey as hostages, played by former child star Harley Cross and Heather Graham's less famous sister Aimee Graham.

They spent most of their screen time being thoroughly humiliated and we were expected to accept they found this experience - which included rape and beatings - a liberating one by the time events had built to the denouement. If that was offensive to you then you were advised to give Perdita Durango a wide berth, but if you fancied something more transgressive, this casually presented that idea, though not without consequences for the characters, some better than others. The details included various depravities that were taken for granted by the central couple, ranging from the low level such as messing with people on the street in violent fashion to high level, such as a gang boss abusing a little girl or the MacGuffin, an articulated lorry full of human foetuses to be used in the cosmetics industry. De la Iglesia evidently had a fairly big budget to play with here, and his movie did look great, even with these lowlifes (including James Gandolfini as a scuzzy DEA agent hot on their trail). If it rambled, well, that was in the nature of a Gifford story. Music by Simon Boswell.

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Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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