Lovely paced, interesting and slowly grinding. The one song featured is super cool. It let me off my toes after a while and flattens out a bit. That's sad since this is really a great story beneath all the grimmness. The atmosphere reminds me a lot of the Chilean film "To Kill A Man". This film is grittier but just as good.
7 out of 10 girl curls.
In a small desert town, Heli, in his 20s lives with his dad and a teen sister Estela. He's married and has a little baby. He and his dad work for the same automobile factory while his sister is at school. An army camp is held for nearby their village. Estela's secret relationship and army's raid on drug dealers, all these lead to get involved in an affair for this little family. The corrupted law is not an option to rely so Heli must stand his own and fight. The world he's after is not for a person like him, he had left no choice other than going for it.
It was a good movie in the aspect of exhibiting the contests. The synopsis says, it is a heroic movie. Heli won't just go into the underworld and smack everyone down. The presentation was in realistic approach. A very well told story with limited characters and dialogues. Yes the movie talks less and displays more, but not completely. Leaves many unsolved mysteries, though it makes you sure you understand without showing the other side of the narration. It's better as now than revealing everything because it could have been lots of violence. A couple of scenes were raw and violent. A bit disturbing as well.
The problem with this movie was the rest of the world received it well, but the natives did not. The reason is the country was portrayed in the bad shade. Like the one we always see in the Hollywood movies which denoted how dangerous is their neighbor. The flaw and the misuse in the law enforcement, especially people from isolated place had to face their problem by themselves. So Mexico's not the only one to have issues like this, but many other parts of the world do. The filmmaker hailed from there so he did this. Remember this movie is better compared to 'Trade' which was more disturbing. In the end, both these movies were not neglectable, because of the plot it showcase was one of the actual crimes that happens everywhere.
With its quasi-documentary air of "realism", exhausted palette, and trademark extended shots (cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman taking full advantage of the flexibility of digital shooting), Heli paints a harrowing and often unbearably grim picture of a lawless bandit country, the indignities of which are made all the more powerful by Escalante's evident compassion for the struggling characters at the sharp end of all this escalating chaos.
Opening with an image of mortifyingly mundane violence (a body hung from a bridge) to which the film will later loop back, Heli centres on the titular young man, played with winning ease by Armando Espitia, who lives with his wife, baby, father and young sister in a ramshackle home in the provinces. Heli and his father both work at the vast car plant around which their home town appears to have sprung up, while 12-year-old Estela (Andrea Vergara) divides her time between attending school and secretly meeting 17-year-old cadet Beto (Juan Eduardo Palacios) with whom she plans to run away.
When Beto stashes two bags of cocaine in the water tank of Estela's home, the protective Heli is outraged and disposes of the drugs, thereby provoking a descent into a violent underworld from which few return intact.
Drawing upon real-life accounts of everyday atrocities, Escalante (director of the similarly controversial Sangre and Los Bastardos) and co-writer Gabriel Reyes conspire to drag Heli and his family through an ordeal that is apparently far from uncommon. Told that they will "get to know God in the land of the damned", the central characters find themselves at the mercy of affectless thugs whose relationship with the law is deliberately obtuse. Are the armed police who arrive at Heli's home gangsters in disguise, crooks dressed as cops? Are they rogue officials, in league with the drug lords? Or are they in fact bona fide law enforcement officials, randomly terrorising the community whom they are supposed to protect?
An early sequence of a huge stash of marijuana, cocaine and pirated DVDs (ha!) being burned by uniformed officials to generate public confidence rings with hollow laughter, a farcical fiery gesture amid a wasteland of ever-expanding tragedy and corruption.
What gives Heli its edge is the stark juxtaposition of almost surreal horror and tangible domesticity, a combination that lies at the dark heart of Escalante's vision. Scenes of Heli's home-life are convincingly etched, with non-professional performers (only the actor playing his father has previous screen experience) lending an air of relaxed naturalism.
Later, this domesticity will become the film's most disturbing element, as home-grown torture is enacted in the presence of children, their attention divided between the flickering images on the TV screen and the real-life beating of a man in whose violation and humiliation they are invited/forced to participate. While the genital mutilation of one of the characters has become Heli's notorious talking point, the digital effects involved in this shot are, if anything, a distraction from the greater horror of a world in which childhood itself appears to have been incinerated.
This is of central concern to Escalante, whose narrative is driven (albeit circuitously) by the relationship between a soldier who is more boy than man and a young girl whose childish dreams of marriage seem destined to be overshadowed by premature motherhood. In this God-fearing land, teenage pregnancy is rife and abortion outlawed, creating a world in which the divide between parents and children is all but indistinguishable. Yet there is none of the leering quality of Larry Clark in Escalante's portrayal of children old before their age; a sequence in which Beto proves his strength to Estela by lifting her like a dumbbell is arresting and affecting more for its pathos than for any creepy shock value.
Similarly, the poster shot of a bare-chested Heli facing an armoured vehicle that looms larger than his house has become emblematic of the film's underlying air of defiance, of people in impossible circumstances enduring the unendurable.
Ultimately, it is this resilience that gives Heli its heart, and perhaps even lends this occasionally intolerable picture a hint of something approaching redemption. Writing and thinking about the film now, I find that I like it more than I did while watching it, an experience that was by turns uncomfortable, alarming and deeply depressing.
And while I remain uneasy about individual elements that seem more designed to startle than to reveal, it is the fortitude of the core characters that lingers in the mind. Mexico as a country may not come out of Escalante's film well, but there is a dignity in Heli and his fractured family that outlasts the torments of their catastrophic environment.