La mara salvatrucha (2002) (??)
La mara salvatrucha (2002) is listed on the IMDb as Veteranos de la M-18 (2007), although my DVD shows the former as the title with its year listed in the end credits. The film is about a street gang. They don’t work; drink and smoke weed; and commit acts of heinous violence. The leader of the gang is tight with his sister; and one day, as he is gunning down a fleeing foe, his sister rounds the corner and is gunned down, too. The leader is devastated and as La mara unfolds, he begins to lose his shit. In an exemplary scene, the gang attempts to rob a warehouse full of goods which is guarded by armed men. Now constantly inebriated, the leader stands vacant and still as bullets fly around him. He gives a slurred speech and pumps some bullets into the warehouse’s boss. It is unclear whether the gang claims any booty from this robbery. He and his gang go to a cemetery where they encounter the parents of one of their victims. The gang guns them down. He rapes a young woman who, devastated by her trauma, turns to heroin. The leader begins shooting up with her, too. It is clear the path that this young man has chosen will lead him to certain death. By the end of ninety minutes, at least. Stiglitz plays “El jefe,” and he sees his soldier on the street, the leader of the street gang, causing nothing but trouble for the entire syndicate. A showdown is inevitable.
La mara is a low-budget exploitation film, where I found myself fascinated as to what kind of shit was going to happen next. There is an aimlessness to the action which, in a creative touch, mimics the lifestyle of the street gang. There is something undefinable about watching the tragedy of someone self-destruct juxtaposed with the same person committing ruthless acts of violence (like brutally torturing a foe, only to, with venomous passion, force one of his comrades to murder the man). La mara is oldschool exploitation. I couldn’t really tell what was up with Stiglitz: he’s so cold and icy that it is hard to read his emotions. He dies really good in this one. He is also billed as “Stiglis.”
Pistoleros del traficante (1999)
Not only is Stiglitz top-billed in Pistoleros del traficante (1999), he appears as the protagonist, as opposed to the supporting role I find myself familiar with. He is an officer on the front lines of the drug trade and is actively attempting to stop drug trafficking…with little success. During a dangerous raid, Stiglitz and company manage to interrupt a drug trade and nab one of the dealers. A fellow officer shoots the suspect before he can talk, and Stiglitz has to shoot him down. This scene is representative of Stiglitz’s dilemma: everyone around him, including his so-called compatriots on the force, are on the wrong side of the law. Stiglitz meets one of his homies at a bar, and the fellow seems an affable chap. (Although in the first scene of Pistoleros, after a concert scene, this same fellow is seen gunning down two dudes in cold blood.) Stiglitz’s homey is one of the key, upper-echelon figures in the drug trade and he has turned his sights towards turning Stiglitz to the dark side. He commands his voluptuous lady to seduce Stiglitz at every opportunity she can get. Stiglitz is actually cool with that, despite having a gorgeous and loving wife. Eventually, one of Stiglitz’s crooked colleagues on the force makes a fatal mistake that identifies him as a bad guy. Stiglitz, with six-shooter in hand, shoots everybody.
Pistoleros feels polished, and Stiglitz is a compelling badass as the lead. The plot of Pistoleros is nothing new: Hong Kong cinema has made a cottage industry out of the genre, and almost every country is familiar with police corruption. This film has a real energy; and while it isn’t memorable, it certainly is entertaining for its run time. There are musical sequences which are nice. The action sequences are very well-done. When Stiglitz takes over, it’s win-win.
Cementerio de cholos (2003)
Stiglitz does not appear until about fifty minutes into Cementerio de cholos (2003) (out of ninety minutes). He does receive top billing. Cementerio is about young friends who enjoy the pleasures of youth: dancing, playing basketball, socializing, and drinking and smoking weed. Dampening their fun is a bunch of assholes, a vicious street gang. In the opening sequence of the film, the young friends are dancing to live music in the open air. The street gang arrives and begins making trouble. The leader of the street gang has eyes for the pretty betty with the cool kids, but she rebuffs him. The next day, she is walking home and gets kidnapped by the street gang. They take her to a secluded place and gang rape her. She escapes. She finds solace first in the hands of a religious zealot (who later immolates himself in the film); second, she returns home to find her mother passed out drunk; and finally, she turns to her friends and explains her trauma. Revenge is on tap, ready to be served cold. It becomes a little lukewarm when the two groups meet to fight, as they are kind-of lame in execution. As the film nears its conclusion, the young friends begin killing the members of the street gang. It appears that Cementerio will not end until the street gang is completely wiped out. Or ninety minutes ends. Stiglitz is the police officer attempting to end the violence among the groups.
Cementerio depicts another ruthless street gang. This gang even enjoys fighting among themselves. They murder a cop. Murder a business owner during a robbery. Bet on dog fights. Lose on dog fights and beat and rob the winner. Gang rape women. Shoot some more people. Ruin parties. The highlight of Cementerio shows that the unity of young people is strong, and this unity is, simultaneously and ironically, wholly absent among many young people. Stiglitz chews the scenery. He points his gun more than he shoots it. The film feels like a slice-of-life docudrama played with the seriousness of an afterschool special. This is unique, in its own way. I would have preferred, as usual, more Stiglitz, but I would not be lying if I said that I was entertained for ninety minutes.