Cartel Land


After doing the math earlier this week, I realized that if I wanted to reach my goal of 100 movie reviews this year I would need to average 1 movie every 2 or 3 days. While there are quite a few movies I plan on seeing in theatres, I will have to watch a lot in my slightly smaller scale home theatre. The bad news is that there is also a lot of quality television between now and next year, so I have to split my time accordingly. Today happens to be the release date for season 3 of Narcos, so I took a break and decided to go for a related movie. I finally cleared Cartel Land off my queue.

I would give it 3 “confused vigilantes” out of 10.


Cartel Land mainly focuses on Michoacan, Mexico and the Autodefensas uprising. The leader is a surgeon named Jose Mireles who started the group out of self defense against the Knights Templar drug cartel. The movie starts out showing the group going from town to town assisting in liberating them from the cartels before diving into their inner politics. After the mid-point of the movie, you can see the Autodefensas begin to see it all come apart.

It also focuses somewhat on the Arizona Border Recon that protects “Cocaine Alley”. That portion highlights veteran Tim “Nailer” Norton and his struggle to prevent cartels from spreading their influence on the border town.


The fact that the documentary was able to start filming before the vigilante group got too large is amazing. You get to see that it started with the best of intentions before things started to unravel. The hope of communities, the voices of reason, and the grassroot movement get their moment in the sun. The director did a decent enough job of staying impartial when everything started to come apart. After that point more viewpoints were shown from “supporting” characters letting the viewer come to their own conclusions. Everything almost seemed orchestrated with how it all turned out.


The sections detailing the US border could have been left out. It didn’t add anything worthwhile to the narrative and would have been better as a separate movie.

Aside from that, the pacing was all over the place. Just as momentum was built up to a decent pace, attention was turned to Norton in the north or the story would hit a lull. I nearly quit the movie a few times it got to be so boring.


While the pacing was horrid, the content was enough to push through and finish it. Assuming there was not any manufactured story added, it is eye opening to how the war on drugs is being fought at the ground level. Everything is in various shades of gray, so it is very suitable that the documentary shows all shades. Unless you are a documentary fiend or want to see what happens on the other side of the border, this can be skipped. Otherwise, you can catch it on Netflix.


After hearing the word vigilante so many times, Batman comes to mind. So why not go to the start with Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan’s movie came at the start of the comic book renaissance and put Christian Bale squarely on the map. Surely you have seen the gritty reboot, otherwise … you can stop reading now to go find and watch it.

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