Rated: R for violent disturbing images, language, drug content and brief sexual material. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 3, 2015 Released by: The Orchard
A difficult, yet sobering documentary to endure almost feels like an extended more visceral, intimate, and intricate episode of the departed, increasingly dexterous Breaking Bad original small-screen series.
A controversial and probing Cartel Land shuns politics for the most part in looking presciently at immigration and "the war on drugs" (tackled in sharply honed cinema like Steven Soderbergh's Traffic).
Parallel stories of policing from the Mexican and U.S. (Arizona, specifically) sides ties into a topic which was tackled in part with thoughtfulness on another small-screen (recently cancelled) venture, The Bridge (which starred Demian Bichir and Diane Kruger). The communities have to deal with the governmental agencies like Border Patrol and DEA, as well as the nasty cartels (emphasized on the Knights Templar) with citizens turned into more of a vigilante than neighborhood watch. There's the Arizona Border Recon and Auto Defensas south of the border.
Chief lenser as well as helmer Matthew Heineman gets into meth preparation/distribution and line of fire in virtually no time as gradually the lines and ideas of virtuosity and wantonness blur. A grizzled vet (The Nailer) Tim Foley (like an emaciated Matthew McConaughey) are with allies preying on smugglers helping undocumented immigrants into the Pacific Southwest. Michoacán, a Mexican province, is where local doctor Jose Mireles heads a guerrilla contingent in a big mess with a brutal syndicate controlling a large territorial swath. AutoDefensas joins with its sovereignty to establish the Rural Defense Force
The segueing from the Arizona to Mexican passages underlines the anguish of the sentinels for a topic that apparently has no end in sight and lets the onlooker decide where the liability really lies. Is the ruling body looking in the best interest of its residents as dissolution, greed and power appear to be important thematic points of interest for Heineman and his talented (and gutsy) collaborators.
It's clear an adrenaline rush is well-appropriated in Cartel Land, Dr. Mireles is quite the luring figure from the more intense, significant Mexican portions in a conflict that may reawaken interest in the true efficacy of authorities and related committees.