La Culata: Mexican Standoff

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” Like a low-budget Andy Sidaris film. If he was Mexican and couldn’t talk his actresses into undressing.”

I vibrated between 2 and 2 1/2 stars for this, but opted for caution: it’s probably not as bad as it seems, despite an obvious lack of budget and ambition far in reach of its abilities. Or, at least, I maybe liked it a little more. As the alternate title suggests, it’s the third in a series, though information on the first two is scant: there’s no IMDB entry for them, and they appear to have different cast members. The central character is Maria Navajas (Ponce), an abused woman who turned to killing, discovered a talent for it, and took it up as a career. This entry finds her being sought by two different groups of gangsters who believe she ripped them off, as well as the feds. She has to fend them all off, with the aid of a friendly undercover cop (Sevilla) and her agent (played by, according to the IMDB, one of the producers of Napoleon Dynamite!).

There are elements of this that are quite laudable, with a host of strong female characters – not just Navajas, but her main adversary, the mob boss knows as “La Culata” (Cepinska), who has a fondness for female enforcers. Both the roles, and the performances behind them, are interesting enough to hold your attention, and some of the supporting pieces are also decently constructed. However, for every step forward, there’s at least one, and often two back. The storyline is over-stuffed, and at 113 minutes, this would benefit from a lot of editing. The action is largely poorly-shot, probably to conceal the limited combat talents, and with bizarre mis-steps such as one awful moment where the heroine throws her knife down the barrel of an enemy’s gun. Look, if you’re that good with the weapon, just embed it in their eye, alright? There are several moments where it looks like this is going to kick off, but doesn’t – most notably, we never get the expected confrontation between La Culata and Maria, which is a shame. Instead, the finale is the biggest let-down since the Hindenburg.

Certainly, don’t be fooled by cover art which appears to have strayed in from Single White Female, or something similar. This is a zero-budget action movie, but coming from a culture which doesn’t exactly regard women as equals, deserves some credit for putting them front and centre. However, the execution in this case leaves just too much to be desired.

Dir: Jorge Ramirez Rivers
Star: Cecilia Ponce, Anna Cepinska, Guillermo Iván, Manuel Sevilla
a.k.a. Maria Navajas 3

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