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Los Chidos
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by Jay Seaver

"Well, that's disgusting. Often funny, but really disgusting."
3 stars

SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 15: Yes, "Los Chidos" goes there. Fill whatever twisted thing you want in for "there", and that statement is likely to be true, although in actuality it's not even in answer to a question - it's doing something jaw-droppingly crude and awful before the audience has asked how far writer/director Omar Rodriguez-Lopez intends to push things and will soon enough be moving on to the next. It's impressively energetic in its vulgarity.

On the outskirts of Jalisco, there's a tire shop owned by a long-married couple (Maria de Jesus Canales Ramirez & Manuel Ramos), their kids (Cecilia Guitierrez & Erasmo Rodriguez), and their niece and nephew (Alejandro Rodriguez & Monica Guzman). Well, in theory; in practice they're lazy slobs shooing business away from their run-down shack. That is, until Kim, an American who doesn't speak any Spanish (Kim Stodel), shows up and refuses to take no for an answer, not just actually coming back mañana, but sticking around with them, even as they rob, berate, and abuse him. It may have something to do with their cute neighbor Alma (Maimuna Achleitner Jimenez), who though married could probably do better, what with her husband tending to drug her and go out wearing her clothes and make-up.

So, yeah, all that happens, and that's really just the set-up for the movie; the actual events that this situation facilitates are even more weird and transgressive. It's a series of gross-outs and people treating each other terribly that will, sooner or later, hit something that causes automatic rejection because you can't joke about that for many, and that's okay. What's surprising is how well Rodriguez-Lopez manages to play with tone and pacing to keep it from happening more often: He'll hit the awful thing quickly and casually enough that it's over before the viewer has the time to work himself or herself into an offended lather. There's also a farcical feel to the whole thing, so that bits that don't really make sense still seem to work in the outsized world he's created. An ironically upbeat narrator adds to the feeling, even when his actual lines aren't that funny.

And a lot of the lines aren't that funny. This is the sort of rapid-fire comedy that tries to make up for only about a third of the jokes working by having an awful lot of them. It's overstuffed in other ways, with a couple characters outside the family that don't do much at all other than cause confusion because so many are being introduced at once and a couple within who mainly seem to be there to balance out their cousins who really like Kim. Then again, these two groups seem to have stories that are tied together but were cut down because they weren't outrageous or funny enough - Rodriguez-Lopez and editor Adam Thomson seem to recognize that slowing down enough for the audience to ponder what they're seeing would be death. They leave enough in for this to be a story rather than just a series of gags, but not much more.

The cast is fun. Kim Stodel is game for anything in the lead, able to wring laughs both from being a blustery, presumptuous American and from serving as the perpetual butt of every joke. Maimuna Achleitner Jimenez is a nice match for her, especially as she sometimes seems to be the only one noticing things are strange, though she seldom gets a chance to be very funny herself. Cecilia Guitierrez and Erasmo Rodriguez are broadly funny in different ways, while Maria de Jesus Canales Ramirez is deadpan as the bizarrely pious mother.

At other festivals (and, I suspect, if it ever gets booked in American theaters), this is a midnight movie; seeing it as a matinee was a weird experience. Maybe it's a bit better under those conditions. It's nasty enough to not be for everyone, and it doesn't always work, but it puts a lot of effort into both shocking and entertaining those who won't be chased from the theater by some nasty humor.

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originally posted: 04/12/13 11:28:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2013 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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