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Featured DVD Review: Saving Private Perez

January 6th, 2012

Saving Private Perez - Buy from Amazon or Video on Demand

Saving Private Perez is a Mexican film that opened in more theaters than most limited releases debut it. It did respectable business on the per theater chart during its opening weekend, but collapsed quite quickly after that. This suggests it is a niche market film. But now that it is coming out on the home market, will it find a wider audience? Or is the crossover appeal too limited?

The Movie

At the start of the film we are introduced to Julian Perez, a crime boss who garners respect and fills those around him with fear. However, he's meeting the one person whom he fears, his mother. A long time ago, she left with Julian's younger brother, Juan (Alex Cervantes), for America. Juan later joined the army to make something of himself, but while fighting in the Iraq War, he went M.I.A. Now, in order to earn his mother's forgiveness, he must gather a group of mercenaries and travel to Iraq to rescue his brother.

But first he's going to have to figure out where Iraq is.

After a brief geography lesson and speaking to his son, he's off to assemble his team. Chema Diaz is retired and getting long in the tooth, so to speak, but he also has combat experience and is an excellent tactician. Rosalia Mendoza is a pilot and the best shot they have at getting into Iraq without being detected. Juventino "Pumita" Rodriguez is a hitman for a rival cartel, he even tried to kill Julian Perez. However, he's been caught and is about to be extradited to the United States where he will most likely face the death penalty. Neither Julian nor Pumita want to work with each other, but Pumita has the skills they need, and Julian is able to make him an offer he can't refuse. Finally, they travel to a quiet tomato farm to pick up Carmelo Benavides, a Yaqui Indian and childhood friend of Julian. It's been a long time since they were friends, but when he hears Juan is missing in Iraq, he agrees to go.

That's not the whole team, as they pick up more on the way. For instance, their plan is to fly to Turkey and travel by land into Iraq, where they pick up a guide, Shasha. However, details from then on hit spoiler territory. Also, while we watch the current day events, we also flash back to Julian's childhood and how he got to where he is. This is also far too far into spoiler territory.

Saving Private Perez is a dark comedy. These films are risky to make for a couple of reasons. They are difficult to get right, because it is hard to get the tone right. Balancing the dark subject matter and the humor is not easy. Not only that, but if you get it right, it is still hard to market the movie. To further complicate matters, this film is aimed at a niche market to begin with. I definitely got the impression there were pop culture references made in this movie referencing a culture I don't have enough knowledge about to judge. That was a little frustrating, but besides that, it was a pretty good movie. There are some very funny scenes that make some cutting points on the crimelord lifestyle. (Julian tours his palatial estate early on with his collection of tigers and lions. He even has a portrait of him and his son as a centaur and a satyr.) The action is not exactly well staged and it is better when it is played for laughs. (There is quite a gap between this group of mercenaries' abilities and their opinion of their abilities.)

It's far from a perfect movie and there are more than a few parts that are a little slow, many of the characters are a little thinly drawn, but overall it solidly entertaining and I suspect members of the target demographic would enjoy it even more.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is a three-minute making of featurette.

The Verdict

Saving Private Perez is a black comedy / spoof on several war movies from Saving Private Ryan to The Magnificent Seven to others. For the most part it works enough to be worth checking out, but I'm not sure the replay value is there to warrant buying. Additionally, there's only one short featurette on the DVD, so renting it is probably the best deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Salvando al Soldado Perez