City official objects to the movie's depiction of his town.
Credit: Richard Foreman Jr

Sicario, the Emily Blunt-starrer centered on the U.S. fight against drug cartels in Mexico, expands nationwide today, meaning moviegoers from El Paso to Peoria can see the R-rated film on the big screen. Set primarily in Juarez, Mexico, Sicario, which means “hitman” in Spanish, has already earned $3 million in its limited release and has generated a 93% fresh rating from critics aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes.

None of this news makes Juarez Mayor Enrique Serrano happy. Serrano recently told reporters that he was urging a boycott of the film because of how it depicted his city.

Juarez, according to the El Paso Times, is also considering suing the producers of the film for portraying it as a lawless place.

Sicario’s director Denis Villeneuve didn’t respond to requests for comment but in an earlier interview he said that the production could only conduct aerial shoots in Juarez because of security concerns. Rather, the filmmakers doubled New Mexico as Juarez in the film.

“Juarez is still one of the most dangerous cities on earth,” says Villeneuve. He also added that while the film’s screenwriter Taylor Sheridan conducted a lot of research while compiling his screenplay — including working with an FBI agent in the area whom Blunt’s character was based on, along with a number of journalists — the story is not based on real events.

“The movie is total fiction,” he says. “It’s like anticipation — it could happen but it hasn’t.”

Still, depicting the town as a lawless wasteland has clearly struck a nerve. According to the El Paso Times archives, more than 10,000 people were killed in Juárez from 2008 to 2012 during a period of drug cartel warfare. In recent years, the number of homicides in Juárez have decreased as the city tries cleaning up its image.

It’s not clear if Mayor Serrano has seen the film yet, since according to the Mexican newspaper, El Norte, the movie doesn’t open in Mexican cinemas until Dec. 11.

As for the lawsuits, at press time, calls to producers had not been returned.

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