Take Five

Recommended at Cine las Americas

Take Five

4) 'Bala Mordida'

It's a good day for Lt. Hernandez (Miguel Rodarte) when he gets stabbed: Suddenly the brave barrio cop is the poster child for a valiant and poorly equipped police force. What the headlines miss is that he may have had it coming, as it seems that threatening a crowd after shaking down both a coke dealer and his own commander (Damián Alcázar) is all in a day's work. A dead-eyed moral vacuum, Hernandez is as gray and grimy as the poverty-riddled streets he patrols; yet, this is less one Bad Lieutenant and more a whole bad department. Bala Mordida (Bitten Bullet) swims in the same corrupt waters as Le Cop, Claude Zidi's 1984 dive into low-grade Parisian graft, but without the French comedy's sense of moral redemption and leavening humor. Instead, it is an unrelenting portrait of a culture of extortion and violence. Senior officers equip beat cops with discount bulletproof vests that could not stop a poke in the ribs. On the streets, those same officers pawn their guns and demand discounts from prostitutes. In his first feature film, the Mexico-based writer/director Diego Muñoz shows corruption that is not just endemic but structural, as law enforcement builds an empire on their badges. Hernandez thrives in this anarchy, but the true kingpin of crime and the fulcrum of the story is Alcázar as the amoral chief. He may look like Jerry Stiller channeling Scarface, but he is both mastermind and monster. The last cop with this much dirt in his past, blood on his knuckles, and vile charisma was Captain Dudley Smith, the knee-breaking bully of James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. The film's brooding and disturbing conundrum is whether the commander is an instigator of this chaos, or just a symptom.

Monday, April 25, 9:55pm, Alamo South Lamar

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