PERDITA DURANGO (1997) – The Dungeon Review!
I thoroughly enjoyed Álex de la Iglesia’s Day of the Beast, so the director’s name was on my radar. When his film Perdita Durango showed up on the 1997 IMDB horror list I knew it was one I had to seek out immediately. Is there anything better than discovering a director with an already well-established resume of films?! For me it is absolutely goregasmic! Álex de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango certainly did not disappoint but I would hardly call it a horror film.
Perdita Durango and Romeo Dolorosa meet at the Mexican border. Romeo is attracted to Perdita at first glance and asks her if she would like to accompany him on his journey. In the back of his vehicle is a freshly dug up corpse that he plans on using in one of his rituals. Romeo introduces himself to Perdita as a scientist but is in fact a practitioner of Santeria, a syncretic religion that he believes brings him good fortune in exchange for blood sacrifice. They manage to cross the border without incident. After some energetic sweaty sex Romeo conducts his ritual as his partner Adolfo collects money. Perdita does not actually believe in this hocus pocus but Romeo does and she is happy enough to play along. Romeo is introduced to Santo through his cousin and agrees to take a job. $10,000 in cash up front and another $10,000 when the delivery is made. The task is to get a truckload of fetuses across the Mexican border to a Las Vegas cosmetic company. Romeo however is unaware he is being trailed by Willie Dumas; Special Agent for the Federal Narcotics Division. Perdita suggests he hold one more ritual before he performs the job. She suggests a gringo be sacrificed; something his followers will never forget. Faster than you can say pass the tequila; the couple kidnap a pair of blond-haired all American college students. And so begins the adventures of Perdita and Romeo!
I had no idea there was a tie-in to David Lynch’s Wild at Heart until someone on twitter mentioned it to me. I have seen Wild at Heart at least 20 times in my life and did not make the connection. Shame on me!! In fairness Perdita Durango is a very minor character in Wild at Heart, but still I should have clued in. After seeing Rosie Perez in the role I think Isabella Rossellini was an odd choice. I am dying of curiosity to read Barry Gifford’s book 59 Degrees and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango. Barry Gifford wrote the books on which both Wild at Heart and Perdita Durango are based. Evidently Barry Gifford also wrote the screenplay to Perdita Durango along with David Trueba, Alex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría. In a way the two films are somewhat similar although there is more humour in Perdita Durango and less weirdness; but both could certainly qualify as violent love stories.
Rape, murder, robbery, grifting, kidnapping, Perdita and Romeo do it all! Perdita and Romeo are both people who take what they want and rarely question the results of their actions. There really is something undeniably appealing to me about characters with no borders. Have you never had the urge to be naughty? I mean…really naughty? Have you never dreamt of holding up a bank with 70s-era Franco Nero or robbing an art gallery with a blond-haired and pierced Tadanobu Asano? Okay, I might be alone on those two. Most of us however weigh the consequences and don’t act on these urges. It is so much fun living precariously through fictional film characters!
Javier Bardem and Rosie Perez have positively electric chemistry! Perdita Durango is the role Rosie Perez was born to play! She is trashy, dangerous, and unforgiving as Perdita but she is also spunky, full of life and alluring. I really loved her in this role; I really don’t think she has ever been better or more perfectly cast! Perdita has a reoccurring dream where she is in bed with a Jaguar; it speaks so perfectly to the character’s personality! Javier Bardem is psychotic, charismatic and full of sexual bravado as Romero Dolorosa. He is the perfect partner for Perdita and the two have an undeniable fiery connection. Duane and Estelle the young couple Perdita and Romeo kidnap are blindingly blond all-American types whose scrubbed clean existence is utterly rocked by the eccentric duo. They are raped, slapped, pushed around, screamed at and witness some serious violence at the hands of Perdita and Romeo. Their world will be forever changed after this experience; if of course they survive it. Harley Cross and Aimee Graham are equal parts grating and sympathetic; Duane and Estelle sort of grew on me by the end of the film. Federal agent Willie Dumas is a douchebag, and a damn durable one; James Gandolfini is perfect in the role; his character takes a serious freaking beating! Romeo’s ritual right hand man Adolfo is an absolute hoot and is played with great enthusiasm by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Don Stroud plays Santos and is dead on as the bad-ass gangster.
There is a ton of violence and sweaty sex in this film! What can I say? I like violence and sweaty sex! Does it have a moral lesson to teach us? Sure, if you consider live by the sword die by the sword a moral lesson. Perdita Durango is funny, violent, action-packed, sexy, salty and a crapload of energetic fun!
Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5
Directed By: Álex de la Iglesia
Starring: Rosie Perez, Javier Bardem, Harley Cross, Aimee Graham, James Gandolfini, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Demián Bichir, Carlos Bardem, Santiago Segura, Harry Porter, Carlos Arau, Don Stroud, Alex Cox, Miguel Galván, Regina Orozco