Right after the success of his masterpiece, the dark comedy "El Dia De la Bestia", Spanish director Alex De la Iglesia took a stab at Hollywood with this wild ride of marvelous insanity and bizarre entertainment. Sadly, the resulting movie was severely cut in the U.S. and the U.K. and didn't had the expected results as many labeled as another Tarantino-style film. While at first sight "Perdita Durango" indeed looks like a rip off of the movies by the Tarantino-Rodriguez tandem, this really black comedy is more a witty satire than a serious action flick.
The film is the story of Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez), a young criminal who one night meets Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem), a crazed priest of an extreme form of Santeria who makes a life doing jobs for the mob. They fall in love and Perdita comes along in Romeo's latest job: the traffic of human fetuses for the cosmetic industry. On their trip, they kidnap two American teenagers for Romeo's human sacrifices. However, things go wrong as a DEA agent (James Gandolfini) follows them closely and the kidnapped teens try to escape.
Based on Barry Gifford's novel of the same name, the movie follows the criminal couple's adventure in the style of a road trip movie with the two couples (the criminals and their victims) as main characters. I can't tell how faithful the movie is to the novel, but it is definitely closer to Gifford's previous film adaptation, David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" than to the Tarantino films that are often compared to it. The movie is charged with black humor and disturbing violence, and is a brilliant satire of modern society.
Alex De la Iglesia crafts a film that is at the same time disturbing and funny, and he plays with those two very different emotions with very good results. The pacing of the movie is very good although it is true that at times it feels a bit disjointed. Still, De la Iglesia manages to tell an intelligent and different story than what we are used to. On a side note, the edited A-Pix version is missing what is probably the most important moment of the film due to copyright troubles, so to fully appreciate the film, the 125 version is the way to go.
The acting is good for the most part, with Javier Bardem showing exactly why is he considered the best Spanish actor of his generation; his Romeo Delarosa is one of the best performances of his career. Rosie Perez is effective, but at times it feels as if she weren't up to the challenge, something that hurts the film badly, as she is the main character. Harley Cross and Aimee Graham are very believable as the kidnapped teens and show potential for comedy, but the real joy comes from supporting actors Gandolfini and a surprising Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Personally, I liked the film a lot and it is a personal favorite, but I must be fair and point out that it is not a perfect film. Alex De la Iglesia's main mistake is to focus too much on Romeo Delarosa's character, almost to the point where Rosie Perez almost becomes a supporting actress. The fact that Bardem's acting is enormously superior doesn't really help Perez' performance. On another point, the movie seems to lose steam at the last point, and while it does recover some of its initial power, the edited versions definitely take out this final improvement.
As written above, this is a personal favorite, and while I wouldn't recommend it to everybody (due to its disturbing images), I would definitely recommend it to fans of black comedies, disturbing thrillers and overall bizarre film-making in general. 8/10