3 September 2011 | waheim
Lighthearted spoof of action genre with affirmation of the Mexican identity
Before "Saving Private Perez" started, six indistinguishable action film previews reminded me of the repetition that comes with American action films, threaded with a slim MacGuffins. There were also two comedy trailers that had weird premises, and an outlandish over-the-top trailer for "Anonymous," a scary Tim Burtonesqe intensity/darkness and whopping Foley.
Happily "Saving Private Perez" is over-the-top and outlandish,but in a snarky, straight-forward, perhaps satirical, literal way. If this seems contradictory, it is because this film is having it all ways. And that is its pleasure. It is not a mockery, but a tongue in cheek presentation of a Mexican drug lord's quest to save his USA Marine brother held hostage in Iraq (which is somewhere near Saudia Arabia and Holland). His estranged mother had asked drug lord to bring the brother home (alive). Occasionally funny, the film follows this quest seriously.
The drug lord recruits a "Dirty Cinco" and they fly to Turkey and camel into Iraq. Much exaggerated, nothing is driven into the ground (but who can really exaggerate the American action film or one of our recent comedies?). Its exciting moments are balanced with laughs. "Saving Private Perez"'s ancestor is Phillipe DeBroccca's "That Man from Rio," which spoofed the Connery/Bond series, using exotic locations and validating French traits including stubbornness. "Perez" validates the Mexican character and travels as far.
Production values (2.35:1 aspect ratio)are unexpectedly good. Camera work includes appropriate long shots and scenes are staged for widescreen without excessive closeups. It's not a smooth film, but neither is "That Man From Rio"--you have to allow both their quirkiness and rough edges(cuts).
One pleasure of "Private Perez" is the sense of place, whether LA, a hacienda, rural Mexico, Istanbul or an Arabian desert. You enjoy the space which propels the action. Similar to Brazilia in "That Man from Rio" it intrigues without being a travelogue
I haven't seen a desert like this since "Lawrence of Arabia." It is beautiful desolation. At one point, the "heroes," climb out of an oil pipeline, cover themselves in desert dust and remind me of the mole men in "Superman Meets the Molemen." The film offers other references.
"Saving Private Perez" is an interlude from the dispirited manufactured films that clog our previews. With nonchalance, a joke ever so often, an action sequence here and there, it refreshes us.