Saturday, January 22, 2022

Death To Bikers.

 I love putting on a movie I’ve never seen before and the most unexpected & entertaining shit happens in it and that is the case with Ataque Contra Las Pandillas. Now if you read the back cover of the VHS case— then you’d be spoiled so damn badly. That’s if you can even read Spanish of course. In my case, I didn’t even bother to look at the back until after the movie was over. Once I looked in the back I was not even surprised by the enormous spoiler plot outline that was on there since most Mexican VHS from the 90’s & 2000’s have them written up like that and I’m not even sure why either. Oh, well though.

In Ataque Contra Las Pandillas— a biker gang lead by a guy called Cesar (Guillermo Lagunes) are relatively minding their own business by having a grand ol’ time inside a diner where the owner ends up scolding them to leave. Once they hit the road, they’re just riding around looking all badass and seemingly just enjoying life on the open road. Nothing could possibly go wrong right? Well of course something will go wrong. Very wrong. On the very same roads Cesar & his gang ride on, 2 drunken brothers in a red pickup truck go around hassling people they find and even go as far as kidnapping them. When Cesar & his gang settle for the night, it all goes weird & eerie as fuck. They’re being watched by someone through the darkness, a bell sound is heard from afar and several of the bikers are taken away from their camp & murdered. As it turns out, the drunken brothers with the red truck are doing the evil bidding for their witch mother & an old warlock from their town. 

Ataque Contra Las Pandillas at first seems to come off like any other biker gang flick out there since we got the leather/denim clad in motorcycles being care-free on the road. It’s like an Easy Rider kind of thing, but that’s of course all ruined when some rural Mexican folks wielding machetes go after them and then the whole witchcraft kidnapping & murder shit happens. Man, these poor bikers. They really weren’t so bad and truly didn’t deserve their good vibes to be turned to shit. It’s funny how the tables are turned in this movie since it’s usually bikers being the ones to torment a town, but this time around it’s the town tormenting the hell out of the bikers. Perhaps it is a warning sign to us all to not go to small Mexican towns we aren’t familiar with. You just never know what you might come across on..

Ataque Contra Las Pandillas has a peculiar tone that felt so familiar and sure enough this was produced by Anita & Ruben Rodriguez and with the helping hands of leading actor Guillermo Lagunes who around the same time had made Venganza Sangrienta with the Rodriguez's. Actress Viviana Rey also appears in the movie as yet again the girlfriend of Guillermo’s character and she also has her hair in dreads just like in Venganza Sangrienta which leads me to believe both movies were either shot back to back or just one after the other. Both productions are from 1996. If I recall, Venganza Sangrienta has some weird slow-motion scenes during intense moments and Ataque Contra Las Pandillas also has slow-motion scenes during intense moments and more than it should, too.

Ataque Contra Las Pandillas is an unusually interesting watch and yet another horror-thriller obscurity unearthed by yours truly. How this movie fell under so many radars is beyond me, but boy am I glad to have seen this & hope others can too. If you like bikers, witchcraft madness/weirdness and seeing a drunken Flaco Guzman laughing a lot— then this is the movie for you to see. This is worth your time. 


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Chicago Gangs.

In 1991, Mexican movie producer Orlando R. Mendoza had many connections in Chicago and with the help of director Damian Acosta Esparza– they had shot 2 movies back to back about notorious street gangs from the Windy City. It's interesting how Mendoza & Acosta managed to get both movies done and have it in the rental market several months after filming– but it is a reminder of how these Mexican filmmakers worked. They shot movies back to back very quickly & never going over budget (somehow) and sometimes they even got to make 4 movies at once and I say 4 because the Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes movies weren't the ones they made in that time & place! They also filmed a boxing-drama entitled "De Sangre Mexicana" along with a sequel. Same crew and almost the same cast. Another time I'll speak of the De Sangre Mexicana movies, so now here's the rundown on Chicago Pandillas Salvajes

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes

Old man Mario (Mario Almada) thinks he has the best kids ever and so much that he refuses a promotion at work so he can be more around his "perfect" family. Well, Mario doesn’t realize that his sons Armando (Armando Araiza) & Alex (Cesar Alejandro) are leaders of the notorious Black Horses gang and his daughter Karla (Laura Tovar) is hanging out with a bad crowd and just happens to be dating Salomon (Salomon Carmona)– the leader of the Latin Brothers gang. A rival of the Black Horses of course. In the beginning of the movie, The Latin Brothers and The Black Horses fight in a warehouse and their rivalry of course stems from competition in the local drug trade which is all run by local drug kingpin “El Monje”. As their rivalry continuously grows– Mario begins to grow suspicious of his children as he finally starts to realize they’re involved in really bad shit and this all leads to something very tragic for Alex. 

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes is such an usual movie and what is it that makes it unusual? Well for one, the movie seems to want be taken serious as in like trying to show us the cruelty of gang life and yet also seems to exploit it as well. The movie begins with leading man Mario acting like he’s living the good life with 3 perfect kids who apparently do so well in school. There’s also a priest character in the movie who tries to get Armando & Alex to repent from the gang life and Mario’s female companion in the movie struggles with her own daughter hanging with a bad crowd. As we see all this melodrama unfold, we’re also seeing gang members fighting each other and murders committed by the gangs as well. I still wonder was this movie meant to be somewhat preachy and teach us the wrongs of gang life? Or was this just another videohome for the Mexican-American audience to rent the hell out of? I'm leaning towards both opinions and it all works quite well. And with a second part to the movie? My attention is all there!

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes II

The first Chicago movie ends with tragedy striking Alex at the hands of Latin Brothers leader Salomon. Several months later, Salomon is suddenly released from jail & cleared of all charges and it is all thanks to his powerful crime boss uncle. Salomon is now back leading the Latin Brothers and he wants revenge on Mario, Armando and Karla so bad. Armando is now fully leading The Black Horses and seems to have partied ways from his family. Armando & his Black Horses continue to deal drugs & commit various crimes around Chicago thus making them the most powerful gang in the Windy City. As Salomon & The Latin Bothers try to take over Chicago from The Black Horses– someone at night is murdering various Latin Brothers members! And of course it is none other than Mario wearing a bandana over his face and wielding a pistol.

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes II is far more focused on action than melodrama. This time around we’re treated to plenty of scenes of gang violence and Mario Almada playing a vigilante at night. The movie ends with a conclusion and it’s a sad one of course. There’s also an unusually long scene with the remaining characters driving out to Mexico. I’d understand a minute or two of driving, but over 5 minutes? Ummm… 

Both Chicago: Pandilla Salvajes movies are quite rare and hard to come by. However though, there is a composite release from the 2000’s titled “Pandilleros Del Este De Chicago” which combines both movies into one. It’s not exactly a great composite, but for those ultra curious and wanting to see what these movies are like, then check it out for free on YouTube. If you get the chance to see both full movies or the composite, then you’re in for quite the treat since you’ll see the lower west side of Chicago in the glorious 1990’s. Mario Almada is of course excellent in both movies and I’d only wish his vigilante scenes were much longer, but they were still interesting nonetheless. Salomon Carmona is also an excellent antagonist since he looks pissed off through out both movies and he's always just talking shit as well. He gives no fucks and I like him a lot for that. He truly stands out in these grand ol’ movies.