MISS BALA

The title is a pun: the anti-heroine sets out to win the “Miss Baja
California” beauty contest, but ends up hopelessly (and bloodily)
entangled in drug violence and official corruption. “Bala” means
bullet, therein the irony. What makes this movie stand out (besides
the Dead Soul central performance of Stephanie Sigman) is that while
you won't find a bleaker or more hopeless look at life today in
Mexico, it's exciting to watch. Obviously, gun battles always wake up
the action. But director Gerardo Naranjo intensifies every scene with
uncanny camera placement that makes you feel as though you're sitting
alongside the characters. There are daring static shots and long, slow
pans, sometimes back and forth, that keep the audience both engrossed
and on edge. This is TRAFFIC meets MARIA FULL OF GRACE, but
unredeemed, joyless, a film that leaves you with the feeling that no
matter what choice someone makes, there are situations in which
heartless circumstance will screw them over and then, if they are very
lucky, leave them scarred and alone. — Jeff Schultz

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