Blu-ray Review: Bacurau | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, January 24th, 2021  


Studio: Kino Lorber

Jul 16, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Brace yourself for Bacurau.

Even if you’ve come across the trailer for this unique piece of pulp fiction, there can be no true preparation. And truly, the best thing you can do with a film like this is to go in completely blind.

The film opens as a young woman returns home to Bacurau, a tiny South American village, for her grandmother’s funeral. The entire population is on hand and it quickly becomes apparent that they live in what could be described as a socialist utopia with little connection to the outside world. Sure, they have smart phones and televisions, but they are resistant to outsiders and the influence they bring. This is first shown to be true when a local politician shows up to grandstand. They aren’t having any of it as he has failed to fix their lack of access to clean water, and thus he’s lost their trust forever.

Bacurau feels very much like a social justice film in its early stages. And while it maintains that element, it very quickly strays from its gritty realism to something more heightened and stylized. A UFO-like drone appears, cell signals drop, and the town itself disappears from maps and GPS. Shortly thereafter bodies of loved ones are discovered slaughtered at a nearby ranch. A group of American mercenaries are introduced about to descend on the village in what appears to be a working vacation – they’re being paid to kill as many villagers as they can and their pay is directly linked to how many bodies each individual can claim.

These people are bloodthirsty maniacs who find many means of justifying their grotesque pleasures – “no kids” or “we only use vintage weapons” – but, really, they just want to wipe out a bunch of innocent people they view as inferior. The money is secondary to the violence even though they definitely go hand-in-hand. It’s a little too on the nose as a metaphor for “the times we live in” but it mostly does the trick.

But the invaders aren’t exactly prepared for a population that can defend itself. Bacurau is not helpless. Eventually it turns into a bloodbath that lampoons American confidence as the mercs are nothing more than opportunistic buffoons so whenever they lose the element of surprise, their advantage is out the window. One of the idiot guns-for-hire unironically calls them “savages” after the tables are turned despite the fact that he was the one trying to murder innocents.

“Innocent” is probably incorrect. While the townsfolk are generally sympathetic, there is an undercurrent of violence within it that goes unchecked or is even celebrated. One of the residents, Pacote, has his own streaming channel counting down his best kills. This could be a detail that’s included to underline the notion that these people aren’t shrinking violets and as a peak behind the curtain to show what’s in store for the overconfident hunters.

Bacurau is a riff on The Most Dangerous Game with a hint of Death Race 2000 (money instead of points for the kills…and fewer cars) and Seven Samurai in a way, as it involves protecting a town from a siege. The amount of gore, despite the plot at its core, isn’t gratuitous but there are some truly impressive uses of practical blood splatter at play. Sonia Braga – a familiar collaborator with co-director Kleber Mendonca Filho – and Udo Kier lead a cast that is clearly having a blast, though the mercenaries deliver a mixed bag of performances. They’re trying to balance menace with idiocy and it too often falls on the latter side. While that may be the point, their scenes are far less interesting or compelling compared to the villagers.

The soundtrack often harkens back to synth-heavy scores of the late 70s and early 80s, particularly with the film’s use of “Night,” a track off John Carpenter’s Lost Themes album from a few years back. Bacurau evokes Carpenter even further by imbuing a blood-soaked piece of exploitation with social commentary keenly with the elite and privileged in its crosshairs.

Even if this wasn’t a year where the release schedule gets thrown totally out of whack, Bacurau would have stood a solid chance at being one of the best movies to get distribution. And now that it’s on Blu-Ray – with a slew of special features including an essay by film critic Fabio Andrade, a making-of documentary, interviews, and more – it can potentially reach even more audiences than it did on the festival circuit in 2019 or when it debuted on streaming platforms and some cinemas earlier this year.



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