(director/writer: Juliano Dornelles/Kleber Mendonca Filho; cinematographer: Pedro Sotero; editor: Eduardo Serrano; music: Mateus Alves/Tomaz Alves Souza; cast: Udo Kier (Michael), Sonia Braga (Domingas), Barbara Colen (Teresa), Thomas Aquino (Pacote), Silvero Pereira (Lunga), Thardelly Lima (Tony Jr), Buda Lira, Clebia Sousa, Danny Barbosa, Jonny Mars, Alli Willow; Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Emilie Lesclaux, Said Ben Said, Michel Merkt; SBS; 2019-Brazil/France-Portuguese/English, with English subtitles if necessary)
“A visually stunning but strange anti-American (anti-imperialist) sci-fi Western about the dangers of lawless modernization.
“Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A visually stunning but strange anti-American (anti-imperialist) sci-fi Western about the dangers of lawless modernization.
It’s set in Brazil’s outback, as it paints a portrait of the Brazilian community of Bacurau as it struggles with a ragtag group (tripping out on ayahuasca) trying to defend itself against the evils of modernity from outsiders.
It’s co-directed and co-written by former critic Kleber Mendonca Filho (“Aquarius”/”Neighboring Sounds“) with his producer and production designer Juliano Dornelles.
Bacurau (a fictional place that means Nighthawk). It’s set in the near future, in a place located in the north-eastern Sertão of the Brazilian outback.
Brazil’s extreme right-wing new president Jair Bolsonaro, a globalist, whose policies make his country easier to do foreign trade by lifting restrictions, is lambasted here as an enemy of traditional values. Executions of convicted criminals in São Paulo are routinely shown live on TV.
Teresa (Bárbara Colen) is a young woman coming back to her hometown for the funeral of her elderly grandmother. She travels there with the driver who delivers the needed drinking water in a giant tanker. The water is urgently needed after a political dispute over the dam with an oily politician, a corrupt mayor (Thardelly Lima), who causes problems by shutting off the water supply unless he’s guaranteed re-election. She also brings medical supplies to the anxious local alcoholic doctor Domingas (Sonia Braga).
The locals are further concerned that a bunch of wealthy foreign tourists are staying together in a hunting lodge near Bacurau and are heavily armed with hi-tech gear. They are Americans and Brits, foreign investors in Brazil, on a safari package deal and acting as a militia about to attack. They are led by Michael (Udo Kier), an ageing German. It turns into a demented Western, that freely borrows from films such as “Seven Samurai” to “Hostel,” that damns those who think their wealth and tech power gives them the right to rule the world as their own fiefdom.
It would spoil your viewing pleasure to reveal how violent and zany things take off after introducing UFOs and witchcraft into the story and getting even more weird after the death of the 94-year-old matriarch, as psychedelics get thrown into the narrative.
It’s probably one of the crazier, freakier and bloodier films ever made (though not necessarily one of the better ones).
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/