The mounting body count in Juarez, Mexico, which has skyrocketed since President Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, makes for a morbidly fascinating topic that receives regrettably clumsy treatment in "8 Murders a Day."

The mounting body count in Juarez, Mexico, which has skyrocketed since President Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, makes for a morbidly fascinating topic that receives regrettably clumsy treatment in “8 Murders a Day.” The larger story, expounded by talking heads and illustrated with TV clips of piled-up corpses, competes with shots of earnest young helmer Charlie Minn riding around with reporters awaiting developments on a “slow news day.” The subject of “Murders,” which opened May 27 in limited release, demands more accomplished coverage.

Newscasters and academics from U. of Texas at El Paso, offer pocket analyses of the situation, one expert even guardedly optimistic that Calderon’s admittedly disastrous policies might yet yield a happy ending. A far bleaker picture is presented by author Charles Bowden (“Murder City”) who bluntly accuses the government and its U.S.-backed military of waging war not on drugs, essential to Mexico’s economy, but on poor people. Historian Molly Molloy supplies statistical backup for that theory. Yet the pic’s fatal lack of proportion trivializes the issue, perhaps best exemplified by Minn’s amateurish inclusion of his own guest appearances on local talkshows to plug the film.

8 Murders a Day

Production

A J&M production. Produced, directed by Charlie Minn.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Sam Pool, Malachi Doctor; editor, Yota Matsuo; music, Kyle Hildenbrand. Reviewed at AMC Empire 25, New York, May 29, 2011. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Charles Bowden, Molly Molloy, Tony Payan, Diana Washington-Valdez, Howard Campbell, Daniel Borunda, Ken Molestina, Darren Hunt, Charlie Minn. (English, Spanish dialogue)
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