×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Buy Me a Gun’

The wild worlds of Mad Max, Huck Finn and Peter Pan converge to eccentric but dissatisfying effect in Julio Hernández Cordón's dystopian cartel thriller.

Director:
Julio Hernández Cordón
With:
Matilde Hernández Guinea, Rogelio Sosa, Sostenes Rojas

1 hour 24 minutes

There’s a Fury Road of sorts running through “Buy Me a Gun,” Meso-American filmmaker Julio Hernández Cordón’s orderless, genre-splicing seventh feature, but it’s a bumpy, meandering one; driving along it, you’ll spot “Mad Max’s” desolate, sun-scorched vistas from the windows, passing by at a fraction of the speed. An indeterminately dystopian vision of Mexico in the full control of cartels — whether it’s post-apocalyptic, pre-apocalyptic or merely apocalypse-adjacent is among the many question marks here — the film ostensibly centers on a father and daughter struggling to stick together through a barrage of regimented violence. Yet Hernández Cordón’s narrative is too slender and sluggish to gather much emotional force; wearing such disparate influences as George Miller and Mark Twain brashly on his sleeve, he seems distracted from the task at hand by his smaller, more inventive strokes of world-building. Viewers may follow suit.

Thanks to such well-traveled, tellingly titled features as “Gasolina,” “Marimbas from Hell” and “I Promise You Anarchy,” Hernández Cordón has acquired a reputation as one of Latin-American cinema’s most aggressive, hell-for-leather genre stylists. With its grisly, eccentric merging of speculative fantasy and gangster thriller elements, “Buy Me a Gun” won’t do that reputation any harm, and should make similar festival-circuit rounds to his previous features following its Cannes Director’s Fortnight debut. Still, it’s an oddly tentative work by his standards, lacking the storytelling brio to match its surface snarl. Brief but not brisk at 84 minutes, the film is missing a hunk of character development and tension-building between its protracted setup and curtailed climax.

For its first half, “Buy Me a Gun” strikes a peculiar tonal balance between menace and whimsy that at least seems effectively uncomfortable, keeping audiences on edge as to which way proceedings will finally fall. We’re at least as uncertain in this realm as pre-teen protagonist Huck (Matilde Hernández Guinea, an alert, appealing find in a predominantly non-pro ensemble), a rare surviving female in a near-ish future where, opening titles vaguely inform us, women have been disappearing and cartels run “everything, absolutely everything.”

Protectively disguised as a boy by her loving but hopelessly drug-addicted father Rogelio (Rogelio Sosa), whose wife and other children have been dispatched by cartel bosses, Huck lives by her wits in a manner befitting her literary namesake: Hernández Cordón originally conceived the project as a futuristic adaptation of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” before taking a more oblique course of homage. Would that “Buy Me a Gun” had been more firmly inspired by its picaresque structure. As it is, the film hovers awkwardly between Huck’s semi-innocent perspective, expressed in slightly precious voiceover, and that of the tragic Rogelio, a trailer-dwelling custodian at the baseball diamond where local drug lords and their heavies gather, play, bully and brawl. Rather too much time is spent detailing Rogelio’s servile relationship to the gang — which has only one way to go dramatically once he’s roped into a job at a grand, inevitably bloody cartel fiesta.

There’s more zip and wit in Huck’s antics with an all-male group of fellow child survivors, orphans who defend themselves guerilla-style from adult-size threats like a less cute pack of Lost Boys, stranded far from Neverland. One of these tykes is called Finn — just in case the reference points here were too hazily defined — but that’s as far as we get in terms of their characterization, as they, too, fall prey to the film’s divided attention. Between these points of focus, the relationship between Huck and Rogelio never quite becomes the beating heart of the action that might carry us through its leaps and longueurs. Only in the final quarter-hour or so does the dust, bloodspray and hectic rattle of bullets clear into something more empathetically elemental and quest-driven; one can imagine a stirring, “Beasts of the Latin Wild”-style tale building from this point, just as Hernández Cordón is hitting the brakes.

Until that late-in-the-day surge, “Buy Me a Gun” is a film that thrives on incidental details of atmosphere and environment, given aptly jaundiced, heatstruck visual unity by Nicolás Wong’s lensing and Ivonne Fuentes’ resourceful, scavenger-aesthetic production design. Mixing grassy camo gear, dime-store masks and driftwood planks, it’s a convincingly destitute dystopia of repurposed scraps from the world we know and eerie motifs from one we wish never to encounter — a textbook case of a film’s budgetary limitations working evocatively in its favor, right down to one grazing aerial shot of the aftermath of a massacre, rendered entirely in paper cutouts. Perhaps that’s a deliberate statement on the value of human life in the film’s parched, nightmarish future; either way, it’s when “Buy Me a Gun” is forced to sidestep flashier genre spectacle that it occasionally shows us something new.

Film Review: 'Buy Me a Gun'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 14, 2018. Running time: 84 MIN. (Original title: "Cómprame un revólver")

Production: (Mexico-Colombia) A Woo Films production in coproduction with Burning Blue, Epost Produccion. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Producers: Rafael Ley, María José Córdova, Rodrigo S. González, Diana Bustamante, Jorge Forero, Julio Hernández Cordón.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Julio Hernández Cordón. Camera (color, widescreen): Nicolás Wong. Editor: Lenz Mauricio Claure. Music: Alberto Torres.

With: Matilde Hernández Guinea, Rogelio Sosa, Sostenes Rojas, Wallace Pereyda, Ángel Leonel Corral, Ángel Rafael Yanez, Mariano Sosa, Jhoan Martínez. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS More Reviews Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out' Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella' The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content