Thursday, January 22, 2015

Perdita Durango (Álex de la Iglesia, 1997)

Despite having a lead character who sports what I consider to be one of the greatest haircuts of all-time and opening with a shot of Rosie Perez's booty in all its mid-90s glory, I was still on the fence about Perdita Durango (a.k.a. Dance with the Devil), Álex de la Iglesia's raucous road movie about, well... I'll get to that in a minute. Then something occurred that caused me to sit up and take notice. No, not the scene where Harley Cross briefly recalls the time he lost his virginity to a rotund woman with an profound pair of sagittally symmetrical indentations on her lower back (pound that chaste cock into the ground, you chunky harlot, you... pound it!). I'm talking about the face Javier Bardem makes while listening "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. I know, that's a weird thing to get excited about it, especially in a movie where James Gandolfini gets hit by a car not once, but twice. But what I can say? I'm sucker for scenes in movies that feature demented psychopaths with kick-ass haircuts making funny faces while listening to jazzy pop music as two blubbering blonde gringos cower in the backseat of said demented psychopath's car.

The mechanics surrounding how those blubbering blonde gringos ended up in the back of the car belonging to Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem) is somewhat complicated, yet, it's also pretty straightforward at the same time.

If you were to tell me that the reason Romeo and Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez) plucked Duane (Harley Cross) and Estelle (Aimee Graham) off the streets of Juárez was for cannibal-related purposes, I would say that, yes, that's "pretty straightforward."

However, if you were to add the fact that both Romeo and Perdita develop crushes on Duane and Estelle (who are as white as their names imply), I would have no choice but to declare their particular situation "somewhat complicated."

Yet another movie that has cast some serious doubts on my previous claims about being alive during 1990s (I have no idea how I missed this film), Perdita Durango is one of the most well-made pieces of trash cinema I've ever had to pleasure to witness. I mean, check out that aerial shot of all those cars waiting at that Mexico-U.S.A. border crossing. The last film I saw with aerial photography this good would have to be Cavegirl. What I'm trying to say in my own clumsy way is that, I don't usually get to see films that sport complicated aerial photography. Seriously, it was like something out of a Michael Bay movie.

Later that night, near that very border crossing, Romeo spots Perdita Durango's reflection in the Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass compact disc he is currently holding. As Romeo approaches Perdita Durango, who is enjoying a cool beverage, I thought to myself: Nothing good can come from talking to a man with a haircut like that.

Short in the front and long in the back (with the sides shaved), Romeo's haircut is a force of nature in this film.

As she proves in the film's opening scene, Perdita Durango isn't the kind of woman you simply walk up and start a conversation with (earlier in the film, she shuts down the pedestrian advances of a lumpy gringo in an airport lounge). But, as we all know, judging by his haircut and his crazed demeanour, Romeo is no lumpy gringo. In other words, I think these two were made for each other.

When he's not taking the time to inspect the breasts of attractive bank tellers in the middle of a bank robbery, or having exuberant sexual intercourse with Perdita Durango on a rickety old bed (there's no way that bed can handle the Latin-tinged thrusts Romeo's workmanlike pelvis puts out there on a regular basis), Romeo conducts bizarre "voodoo style" rituals for tourists and superstitious locals.

Usually involving blood-spitting and bongo music, the first show of this type we see is well-attended, and... Wait a minute, who's that in that back with the video camera? Why, it's Willie Dumas (James Gandolfini), an officer with the DEA.

It would seem that the DEA want to bust Romeo for a series of drug-related offenses. Only problem being, they can never seem to catch him in the act. We're clued in early on as to why this could be, when we see Romeo employ a magic necklace to great effect to pass through customs unmolested. Except, he wasn't trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S., he was trying to smuggle a dead body; one that we later see him use in his "voodoo style" ritual show.

Figuring he can get to Romeo through Perdita Durango, James Gandolfini follows her around town. While an excellent plan on paper, James Gandolfini clearly forgot about the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street. Now, it might not sound like it, but the sight of James Gandolfini getting hit by a car is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. I don't want to over-analyze the reasons why I thought the sight of James Gandolfini's body crashing into the windshield of a speeding automobile was funny. But I will say this, the bulk of the humour came as a direct result of the arrogant air that floated around James Gandolfini's nimbus just before he started to cross the street.

At around this point in film we're introduced to Duane and Estelle, two relatively clean cut American teens. While their introduction seems unrelated to the Romeo and Perdita Durango saga, as we'll soon find out, their respective lives will soon intersect something fierce.

Blessed with some downtime before they do a job for a gangster named Santo (Don Stroud)–a job that has them transporting a trucked filled with frozen human embryos–Romeo and Perdita Durango decide to kidnap a couple of gringos to use in their next "voodoo style" ritual. And wouldn't you know it, they pluck a couple of blonde gringos named Duane and Estelle.

Even though it's best known as the song that appears at the end of Flirting with Disaster, I thought the way "Camel Walk" by Southern Culture on the Skids used in this film was more appropriate. You wouldn't think the same could said for "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, but, as I stated earlier, the sight of Javier Bardem dancing–whilst in the seated position–to this particular ditty is awesome.

Will Duane and Estelle be able to survive their insane road trip with Romeo and Perdita Durango? Will James Gandolfini remember to look both ways before crossing the street? Who's to say? Of course, I realize I'm the one "to say." But I feel like I've already said too much.

Boasting not one, but two shoot outs (three, if you include the finale), a sexy Mexican stoner chick with killer thighs who doesn't "get" anime, Mascaras de la Lucha Libre, a gruesome death involving a bottle, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, an Ava Gardner assisted blow job, Alex Cox as an annoying DEA agent and a scene where a man over fifty-five uses an Abflex while watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Perdita Durango is a first-rate crime movie with darkly comedic overtones.


  1. The cut version of this was released as DANCE WITH THE DEVIL and barely got into theaters. PERDITA DURANGO uncut was hard to find in North America for awhile... some rights issues (having to do with the VERA CRUZ sequence near the end), and other stuff.