Mexico’s centenary celebrations would be wise to distance themselves from vet helmer Felipe Cazals’ ham-fisted Pancho Villa pic, “Chicogrande.” Execrably written (especially the English dialogue) and hampered by poorly connected scenes, this drama about a Villa lieutenant seeking help for his wounded commander, while American troops are on the warpath, goes overboard in making parallels between the U.S. invasion of 1916 and the current Iraq-Afghanistan occupations, turning what could have been a patriotic Western-style adventure into a tired attack on Mexico’s northern neighbour. Outside perhaps Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, “Chicogrande” won’t stray far from home.

Villa (Alejandro Calva, playing a caricature) is holed up in the mountains and requires medical assistance, so devoted follower Chicogrande (Damian Alcazar) and adjutant Guanzaras (Ivan Rafael Gonzalez) search for aid. Sadistic U.S. commander Butch Fenton (Daniel Martinez) tortures anyone with clues to Villa’s whereabouts as troop doc Timothy (Juan Manuel Bernal) bemoans the psychological toll of the American occupation. Elliptical conversations drone on thesps look intense; Martinez repeats “Where is Villa?” so many times, it’s like an acting exercise to determine how to recite a line. Lensing is unremarkable, and dirgelike cellos try viewer patience.



  • Production: A Sierra Alta Films, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia, Fondo de Inversion y Estimulo al Cine production. Produced by Fernando Gou, Gerardo Barrera. Directed, written by Felipe Cazals, from an original story by Ricardo Garibay.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Damian Garcia; editor, Oscar Figueroa; music, Murcof; production designer, Lorenza Manrique; costume designer, Mayra Juarez. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (opener, competing), Sept. 18, 2010. Running time: 100 MIN.
  • With: With: Damian Alcazar, Daniel Martinez, Juan Manuel Bernal, Ivan Rafael Gonzalez, Jorge Zarate, Tenoch Huerta, Patricia Reyes Spindola, Alejandro Calva, Bruno Bichir, Lisa Owen. (Spanish, English dialogue)