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'Cartel Land': EW review

Posted on

Cartel Land

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
R
runtime:
98 minutes
Wide Release Date:
07/03/15
director:
Matthew Heineman
genre:
Documentary, Action, Drama

We gave it an A

In Matthew Heineman’s remarkable new documentary about the flow of drugs across the U.S.–Mexico border, it’s hard to tell what’s more porous: the wall separating the two countries or the division between good and evil of those fighting the cartels. Heineman, who literally put himself in the line of fire as one of his own intrepid cameramen, embeds with vigilante groups on both fronts of the battle, unspooling two parallel stories. On one side is a band of heavily armed gung ho Arizona “patriots” who take the fight into their own hands, policing their own backyards. On the other are the Autodefensas, a paramilitary group of Mexican citizens in the state of Michoacán who hit back against the ruthless traffickers. (The Mexican half of the story is by far the more layered and compelling one.) What makes the vérité-style Cartel Land so chilling is its street-level immediacy and the filmmaker’s warts-and-all portrait of these so-called do-gooders—they’re no saints. What you’re left with is the sickening realization that this cycle of violence is as hopeless as it is unstoppable. A