America has its share of Quentin Tarantino wannabes; why shouldn’t Mexico? Alejandro Lozano is pretty good as wannabes go, though, and his first feature film, “Matando Cabos,” is an enjoyably violent and vulgar dark comedy in the vein of “Pulp Fiction.” (It even includes a character who objects to storing a dead body, and a specialist who gets called in to solve difficult problems.)
Taking place over the course of one night, “Matando Cabos” is about two kidnappings that go awry (one of them before it even gets off the ground, insofar as they grab up the wrong guy). Cabos (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) is a ruthless tyrant of a businessman who was recently angry to find his daughter having sex with her boyfriend Jaque (Tony Dalton), who is also one of Cabos’ employees. Jaque and his buddy Mudo (the single-named Kristoff) go to confront Cabos one night and sort of accidentally wind up with him unconscious and in the trunk of their car.
Meanwhile, there is Cabos’ life-long best friend, who is now his low-paid janitor. The janitor’s son, Botcha (Raul Méndez), furious to see his father treated so poorly, enlists a hitman named Nico (Gustavo Sanchez Parra) to help him kidnap Cabos and teach him a lesson. Alas, Nico mistakes Botcha’s janitor father for Cabos and takes him instead, and by the time Botcha sees the victim, he has a bag over his head.
Various women get involved, but this is mostly a man’s movie, the sort of sardonic film where the characters speak in a detached, calm manner even when someone is coming around the corner to kill them. It is not realistic, obviously; it is stylized, and Lozano keeps the pace buoyant, even when the plot abandons all logic and goes freestyling down the road of random events.
There are amputated fingers. There is a spectacular car crash in a soccer stadium. There is a talkative parrot with a murderous owner. There is a retired masked wrestler named Ruben (Joaquin Cosio) who does NOT like to be called by his ring name of Mascarita anymore.
On top of all this quirkiness and lunacy, Lozano employs flashbacks, fantasy sequences and quick glimpses of what’s happening elsewhere, all in the name of violent, vulgar dark comedy. But in the end, maybe it’s TOO dark: It seems the only ones who actually get hurt are the ones who don’t deserve it. Black humor is one thing, but sometimes it can cross over into pure ugliness. Speaking of ugliness, did I mention the retired wrestler? ¡Que feo!
(Note: I saw this film at Sundance. I assume that if it is ever released theatrically, someone will give the subtitles a once-over, as they are currently rife with typos and misspellings. If you need to someone to help you out, give me a call.)
B- (1 hr., 34 min.; Spanish with subtitles; )