Saving Private Pérez: Film Review

A moronic Mexican action film that somehow crossed the border, leaving behind many much better films for export.

This Mexican action flick from director-writer Beto Gómez has all the makings of a great comedy only no one told the filmmakers.

There is nothing about this movie that isn’t just silly and that includes its title, Saving Private Pérez (Salvando al soldado Pérez). If you going to use a title like that, it should at least belong to a comedy. But, no, this is a Mexican film that certainly seems to be playing the action-adventure straight although it will evoke laughter of the unintended sort.

Why anyone thought a movie this bad should be imported to the U.S. for release is a mystery but no worse a mystery than why anyone made such a film in the first place.  It has no crossover potential with non-Spanish speaking audiences and even the least demanding Latino audiences will shrug off this misfire given the plethora of well staged action-adventure in the marketplace and on DVD.

Even the motive behind the film is odd, to say the least, given that Mexico is experiencing an existential crisis as drug wars threaten to engulf that nation.  Director Beto Gómez, who wrote the screenplay with Francisco Payó González, apparently wants a drug lord to be his hero! How to do this? Hey, what if he has a brother in the U.S. Army, who goes missing in Iraq, and his mother demands that he go to that country and bring her younger son back alive? Then all his scheming and killing will be in a good cause, no?

Miguel Rodarte plays the drug kingpin in cowboy clothes and open shirts with a gold medallion resting on his chest hairs. He and his gang stride through the Iraqi desert —actually the desert of Coahuilain Mexico — where camels and bombed-out buildings strategically placed here and there, dressed in western gear Gene Autry would never dare to have worn. They dodge “John Wayne bullets,” the kind that never strike main characters in a war movie while experimenting with various fighting style, from American films to Hong Kong martial arts, with no discernible ability at any of them.

Exchanging gunfire with Iraqi insurgents is all well and good but when they get into firefights with U.S. forces, who don’t seem to realize that these are the good guys, you don’t know how the movie wants you to react.

Of his gang of four invaders, the drug lord unaccountably chooses two elderly and overweight gentlemen, then a sullen killer, played by someone with no acting ability, and a hulking ex-warrior who cares only about his tomato crop back home. The closest the film comes to acknowledging that any of this might be funny is when hot chili peppers are used for “enhanced interrogations” of Iraqi prisoners — and that potentially funny bit is literally tossed away.

Actors are stiff and self-conscious throughout the film. Tech credits are equally poor with the fake stunts, fake moons and fake sets all too apparent.

Opens: September 2 (Pantelion Films)
Production companies: Lemon Films, FIDECINE, Via Media, Terregal Films
Cast: Miguel Rodarte, Adal Ramones, Jaime Camil, Jesús Ochoa, Gerardo, Taracena
Director: Beto Gómez
Screenwriters: Beto Gómez, Francisco Payó González
Producers: Walter von Borstel, Alexis Fridman
Executive producers: Mariano Menedez, Anwar Safa, Alejandro Omar Safa
Director of photography: Danny Jacobs
Production designer: Sandra Solares
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Costume designer: Marylin Fitoussi
Editor: Mario Sandoval
PG-13 rating, 104 minutes