Álex de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango

Even if I told you to picture a Mexican version of Natural Born Killers starring Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem with shades of voodoo mysticism, tons of pulpy brutal violence, transgressive taboo vibes and shades of From Dusk Till Dawn it wouldn’t prepare you for the visual audacity and narrative viscera that is Álex de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango, a scrappy mid 90’s bit of cult nihilism based on a book by Barry Gifford. Gifford, you may recall, also wrote the book that David Lynch based Wild At Heart on so many of the same characters appear here for a kind of fascinating “Lynch/Gifford extended universe” vibe. Rosie Perez is Perdita Durango, a vivacious wayward outlaw girl who hooks up with Bardem’s Romeo, a psychopathic, voodoo practicing criminal who has been hired by evil crime kingpin Marcelo ‘Crazy Eyes’ Santos (Don Stroud) to facilitate the black market delivery of stolen human fetuses for cosmetic industry (I swear I’m not making the shit up). The two of them hook up along the way and get up to all sorts of lurid shenanigans including kidnapping a teenage couple (Harley Cross & Aimee Graham), raping them both and forcing them to tag along on their bloodthirsty swath of carnage and mayhem across Texas and the Mexico border. James Gandolfini shows up as a dogged DEA agent hellbent on stopping them and nailing Santos, and he hilariously gets hit by multiple speeding vehicles only to keep on truckin with a neck brace, then a leg brace and so on. There are also scattershot appearances from musician Screamin Jay Hawkins, filmmaker Alex Cox and a young Demien Bechir as a Vegas crime kingpin who meets a spectacularly gory end at the hands of Bardem. He is unbelievable as Romeo, I didn’t think I’d ever see a film where he has a more ridiculous haircut than his mop in No Country For Old Men but it happened, he looks like a an angry tumblr maven with his hyper cropped bangs here, and he tears into the role with a kind of unhinged ferocity and rambunctiousness I haven’t seen before in his mostly restrained career so far. Perez is like a Latin Harley Quinn as Perdita, all pissed off fury and sudden violent sexual energy in a total tour de force. This film won’t be for everyone: it’s incredibly subversive and deranged, there are explicitly shown instances of human sacrifice, rape, child abuse and domestic violence, not to mention the overall dose of supremely bloody gun violence and just a generaly lurid, deliberately unsavoury tone that stems from Gifford’s often shockingly tasteless yet somehow captivating work. But it’s a lot of fun too, there’s heaps of hilariously subtle dark comedy thrown in, a ballistic firestorm of a soundtrack, a host of deliriously over the top performances from the excellent cast and all manner of bizarre, arbitrary, surreal and eclectic sideshow-freak elements that make this an eccentric trip to hell with two demented individuals who you can’t decide whether to run from in horror or party with as they’re that much fun.

-Nate Hill

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