Dir: Amat Escalante. Mexico. 2008. 90min.


Los Bastardos uses the same recognisable film language as Amat Escalante’s debut Sangre to rail this time against the industrialised world, in particular the US, for its treatment of illegal immigrants, and the tragedy that inevitably ensues. Escalante’s arguments are valid and the film’s horrific climax will shock the audience out of its complacency but the film’s style - with its static first shot to a drawn-out ending - places this firmly in the art house niche.

The film’s schematic plot follows two Mexican illegals, twentysomething Jesus (Rodriguez) and teenaged Fausto (Sosa) as they search for work and are exploited when they eventually find jobs. They are humiliated by a bunch of young rednecks and break into a private home where a terrified woman is convinced her partner has hired them to kill her, bringing about the film’s bloody resolution.

Poverty turns this pair into criminals and frustration causes them to take violent revenge on white America, which is too interested in preserving its own creature comforts to realise what is happening before its eyes. The didactic script, however, does not flesh out any characters here. The American employers here are all either repellent or vicious while their offspring are moronic, drunken and useless d eleted the bit about the script

Narratively, the film flows easier than Sangre did, possibly due to the assistance of Aihan Ergursel (Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s editor) and the art direction is more elaborate. Matt Uhry’s camerawork is always effective, whether under the scorching sun or in the night sequences, even though Escalante lets the beautifully-framed images linger on screen for longer than necessary.

Working again with non-professional actors lends the characters a degree of authenticity that pushes the movie close to documentary status. There is no doubt that Escalante harbours commendable intentions here but the arthouse audience this film will reach was long ago converted to his cause.

Production companies
Mantarraya Producciones
Tres Tunas
No Dream Cinema
Le Pacte
MCM Films

Worldwide distribution
Le Pacte
(33) 1 44 69 59 59

Amat Escalante
Jaime Romandia

Amat Escalante
Martin Escalante

Matthew Uhry

Production designer
Gabriel Abraham

Ayhan Ergursel
Amat Escalante

Main cast
Jesus Moises Rodriguez
Ruben Sosa
Kenny Johnston
Nina Zavarin