'Lucha Mexico': Film Review

Courtesy of Children of Productions
For dedicated fans only.

Go behind the masks with a few of Mexico's famous pro wrasslers.

While some Americans likely still think Lucha Libre — in which pro wrestlers toss each other around while hiding behind superhero-like masks — only exists in old movies like 1962's Santo Versus the Vampire Women, the sport remains very much a going concern south of the border, where masked luchadores ply their trade in both big urban arenas and modest county fairs. Following a few of the burly men carrying on this tradition, Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz's Lucha Mexico is surprisingly straightforward, playing down the colorful conceits and treating its protagonists like any other doc subjects. As a result, it will play best with those who already care about its stars — many of whom may find it has little to teach them.

Though it touches on a league of "extreme" fighters called Los Perros del Mal, whose bouts flirt with Satanism and incorporate barbed wire, glass and lots of blood, the doc is most interested in the World Council of Lucha Libre (CMLL), based in Mexico City but promoting bouts across the country.

At the time of filming, CMLL stars included an American ringer called Strongman, a mountain of muscle who also fought for a Japanese league, and Shocker, a dyed-blonde second-generation luchador. Shocker's slogan "1000 percent Guapo" ("one thousand percent handsome") explains why he wears no mask, but most of his teammates and opponents do: Blue Demon, Jr., son of one of the sport's legends, complains that he lives "a very lonely life" because he wears his iconic blue disguise 18 hours a day.

Yes, that's hard to believe, and the film does less to differentiate between reality and fictional showmanship than outsiders will expect. But some of the ringside emotion is clearly real: We watch a "Ring of Hell" fight, whose point is to destroy an opponent's career by tearing his mask off in front of the crowd, then return, months later, to witness the tragic consequences of drama we might have thought was all a put-on.

The doc is most interested in Shocker, following him through nasty injuries, concerns about his post-wrestling prospects and a tour or two through unglamorous gigs far from the big arenas of the capital. It's a hard life, even for a star who can draw autograph-seekers wherever he goes.

Distributors: Kino Lorber, Sol y Luna
Directors-directors of photography-editors: Alex Hammond, Ian Markiewicz
Screenwriter: Ian Markiewicz
Producer: Alex Hammond

In Spanish and English

Not rated, 102 minutes

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