Los Bastardos

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Cannes, Un Certain Regard

CANNES -- Fausto and Jesus are two of the thousands of undocumented laborers who stand on street corners every day in every town in America waiting to be offered a few hours of work.

As director Amat Escalante (whose first film, “Sangre,” was at Cannes a few years back) subtly sketches the daily frustrations of these impoverished, uneducated men far from their families, along with the backbreaking but badly-paid work they perform and the ethnic taunts they endure, a sense of hope slowly arises in the viewer that this is going to be a very special film.

Alas, Escalante perversely chooses to dash that hope by suddenly changing gears in the direction of a half-baked plot twist which has Jesus contracting with a man we never see to murder his former wife for reasons we never learn. There is absolutely no explanation (apart from the constant need for money) why a man like Jesus (about whom, come to think of it, we don’t know a single thing) would undertake such an ill-advised project.

Completely gratuitous sex is injected for more easily discernible reasons (but is it believable that an uneducated, horny illegal worker would perform unasked-for cunnilingus on a woman he’s come to murder?).

Graphic gratuitous violence (spattered brains and all) is piled up for similar motives. Worst of all, the English dialogue written for this part of the film sounds like the translations you get on foreign Google entries, and the acting by all the gringo characters is, literally, not to be believed.

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