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Über dieses Buch

This book provides the first comprehensive study of narco cinema, a cross-border exploitation cinema that has been instrumental in shaping narco-culture in Mexico and the US borderlands. Identifying classics in its mammoth catalogue and analyzing select films at length, Rashotte outlines the genre's history and aesthetic criteria.



1. What Is Narco Cinema?

Narco cinema is a low-budget direct-to-video cinema produced by Mexican and Mexican-American studios, predominantly for US Latina1 markets. It’s a remarkably lucrative industry and in over 40 years of production has furnished a catalogue of thousands of films about narco culture in Mexico and the borderlands.
Ryan Rashotte

2. Hecho de coca: A Sentimental Education

The opening credits of our first film appear over black screen in a font my word processor identifies as Lucida Handwriting. This is not endearing type. The vibe is somewhere between wedding-registry gauche and yearbook duplicitous. La Raja Mex presenta. But foremost among its occlusive virtues, what makes it an auspicious choice over, say, Big Caslon’s competitive handshake, or the personality disorder of Andale Mono, and what renders its acknowledgement here a critical imperative rather than a waste of time is not its form—forget about form—it’s the cogent poetry of the name itself. Lucida Handwriting. That suggestion of something luminous, brilliant trapped within a scrawl so personal it’s difficult for others to understand, let alone divine its worth. In the public domain of typeface, there is not a more pitch-perfect metaphor for the film we are about to see or for the genre you may eventually come to love. But we’re only two seconds in; forgive my impatience.
Ryan Rashotte

3. Two Foul Score of the Brothers Almada

Forty years of narco culture in the Americas and all the windows looking in are busted. Come see for yourself: four decades of shattered glass, long hats, severed limbs, perfect whiskers, rotten blood. Two foul score of outrageous fortune and untimely ends.
Ryan Rashotte

4. Narcas y Narcos

His name is Bernabé Melendrez. His eyes are brown, his beard is neat, his cheekbones, I’m pretty sure, are crabapples. His nickname is El Gatillero (“The Gunman”) and even his happiness seems to partake of the larger weariness that name connotes. He is the man you picture when I ask you to envision a man on a cold Sunday morning in front of a tackle shop with a weight on his mind. More specific? Sometimes I think he resembles a corpulent Thom Yorke, though other times, when “Knives Out” cycles onto my playlist, I think of Yorke as an emaciated Melendrez, grievously in need of a home-cooked meal, an ice bucket of Tecate and the clemency of a real friend. Few things achieved between the sticky aisles could please me more than finding 16 foot-lamberts of him glowing in my neighborhood multiplex, hearing his reedy voice in Dolby Surround, watching him give the look to Brad Pitt, the one that would have earned him this walk-on as Tarantino’s latest obscurity. Whereas Mario Almada is stoicism itself, and Jorge Reynoso jives between chummy and batshit, Melendrez’s signature look is a portrait of angst so masterful it’s shocking how malleable it can be, infusing scene three’s establishing shot with apocalyptic portend, and the aftermath of scene seven’s triple homicide with gunner’s remorse. It’s more than angst.
Ryan Rashotte

5. … and Narco Gays?

For a while I used to think that whatever was to be said about homosexuality in narco cinema could be scrawled overtop a glory hole packing a shotgun. There are no Pride bumper stickers on El Chrysler 300. No Omarcitos whistling through the blighted alleys of Monterey. Mario Almada once boasted that he’d played every kind of character except a homosexual—“If I played that, it wouldn’t even be believable”1—and when actor Sebastián Ligarde came out last year, it’d been a decade since his last appearance in a narco film, and this chapter was still only a footnote about the curious alliance of machismo and melodrama, requiring no more than 20 seconds of your critical attention.
Ryan Rashotte

Postscript: From Culiacán to Cannes

Quitting narco cinema has meant the most gorgeously pangfree break with any of the addictions I’ve had to curtail along my 15-year journey from eternal youth to premature grey. On the obsessive-compulsive meter aligning my nervous system, the films rank somewhere in the busy middle: just above cinnamon nicotine gum, but still several notches below tutti frutti nicotine gum. Three weeks clean, the cravings have been manageable and particular, and the tricks of self-delusion largely inoffensive. As for no longer having to write about narco cinema, let me say how wonderful the release is when every second page no longer brings a new moustache to describe.
Ryan Rashotte


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