We gain our interests at a very young age and these experiences & exposures to our interests are the things taught in a classroom, the sports we are treated to see & take part in, the music we hear in our surroundings, the food we are given to eat, and for people like myself—the films that we watch with our elders. Sometimes these films can be of very lighthearted topics and make us feel good about the world we live in. Then there are other kinds of films that make us feel fear & true terror, but the adrenaline we get from it feels so damn good and the aesthetics from those films are so eye-captivating as well.
I’m a lover of films and Mexican genre films in particular. What started all this? It began with Ratas De La Ciudad (aka "City Rats") when I first watched it on tv at 7 years old. This was a film my parents were fairly excited to watch and they really wanted me to see it. This film unexpectedly set me up for something I never expected to get into & much deeper later on. Ratas brought fear, lots of excitement & sadness. Ratas also opened my eyes on the world we live in—a big, sad, messy & fucked up world. Ratas was responsible for 13 years of obsession, research, & plenty of devotion to Mexican genre films that have faded away with time. Ratas De La Ciudad is what started this whole thing I call Trash-Mex.
Pedro Macias (Valentin Trujillo) & his little boy Pedrito head out to Mexico City for a better life. Pedro manages to get a decent job and all seems to be going well up until an accident occurs. Pedrito is hit by a policeman’s car and the cop doesn’t take any responsibility for it, thus causing Pedro to harm him. This unfairly lands Pedro in jail for 5 years. While recovering in the hospital, Pedrito is to be sent out to an orphanage, but he manages to runaway and begins a life out in the streets with an older boy (Victor Lozoya). The older boy teaches him how to survive which consists of mugging & stabbing people at night. Of course though, these 2 aren’t the only kids committing such atrocities—there are hundreds & thousands of them alike and the public call them “Ratas” (rats).
Pedro struggles in jail and even more so when he finds out Pedrito has ran away and not been found—luckily though, he befriends an incarcerated cop named Zuñiga (Rodolfo de Anda) who helps him out when they both are released. Zúñiga gets Pedro a job as a cop and this way he can search for Pedrito out in the streets. The city is so big and full of danger, can Pedro find his son safely? Does his son even want to be saved after so long?
Ratas De La Ciudad (aka "City Rats") was filmed in 1984 & released in 1986 and this was during the time when Mexican films were beginning to “decline” and “lacking quality”. The reason for this apparently was because almost every single film coming out was just pure exploitation. Nothing but violence & sex coming out, but people still went out to see them. And it wasn’t just because that’s all that was being offered, but because that is what the people wanted to see. This is something that “critics” & “historians” fail to mention (all the time). Ratas De La Ciudad is a violent & sleazy film and it was marketed this way with its very violent & appealing poster art, but the film is more than just violence & sleaze—it is also a very serious film that shows the realities of what was going in the big cities in Mexico. What was going in Mexican cities then? There was police corruption all-around & young kids in poverty losing themselves in drugs & committing very serious crimes and no help was ever given to them. These were the things that were heard of all over the news and of course stuff like this would make intriguing films and Valentin Trujillo just had to take a shot at it just after his directorial debut: Un Hombre Violento. Valentin’s family members were of course involved in the film with his cousin Gilberto de Anda writing the screenplay with him & his other cousin Rodolfo de Anda starring alongside him.
Ratas De La Ciudad is a violent film and a very emotional one as well. Ratas portrays its topics of murder, corruption & poverty the way it was talked about in the news. The news was always talking about corruption in the police force and always talking about the violence & drug use in the cities and all consisting of street people—children mostly. In Ratas, we see nothing but young children brutally stabbing people and robbing them of their goods. And while we don't actually see it, the kids in Ratas partake in drug use as a way to cope from boredom & hunger. Once again, this was something that was very much talked about then.
Ratas De La Ciudad is a one of a kind film and while its topics have been portrayed in other films before, Ratas remains its own kind of film and one that could never be emulated. Valentin’s direction here is so personal & different and the characters he & Gilberto de Anda came up with are so very human & real and all portrayed by a wonderful cast consisting of: Valentin Trujillo (directed the film, co-wrote it & starred as the lead!), Rodolfo de Anda, Humberto Elizondo, Angelica Chain, Roberto “Flaco” Guzman and a very young Victor Lozoya. Mexican vedette Lyn May makes a small appearance in Ratas and in one of the most brutal scenes of the film as well. To add another layer of stardom, famous Mexican composer Armando Manzanero provides the film’s gentle & haunting theme song “La Niñez” ("Childhood"). The song is about watching your children growing up happily & free—quite ironic since the film is the completely opposite of that. The song plays in the happy opening credits & it plays again after a very tragic, gruesome ending. Mexican regional group Los Caminantes also provide some music in Ratas and in a very memorable bar fight scene where they perform their smash hit "Supe Perder" ("I Learned To Lose").
Ratas De La Ciudad is a film that will get emotions running & leave you with a feeling of sadness & excitement. This is how I felt when I first saw this film at 7 years old and even today at the age of 32. I would like to consider Ratas to be one of the most realest Mexican films ever made. It's also in some ways quite exploitative, but it exploits the realities of what was really going on then. It did not sugarcoat anything whatsoever. This is a Mexican film that has to be seen and never ignored or looked down upon.