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"Heli": A Love Story About the Mexican Drug War 

Tuesday, Aug 5 2014
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Beginning with distributor Nodream-Mantarraya's logo of a man sitting in the waves of the ocean and screaming at an unseen terror, Amat Escalnate's Heli is a sustained, often brutal nightmare. Heli (Armando Espita) is a young auto worker in rural Mexico who lives with his wife, father, and 12-year-old sister Estrela (Andrea Vergara). Estrela is in an unbalanced relationship with 17-year-old Beto (Juan Eduardo Palacios), who endures harshly dehumanizing police training at a School of the Americas-style camp. When Beto steals drugs from a bust and hides them at Estrela's house, all hell breaks loose as men with guns and armor come after Heli's family, including a truly disturbing torture scene. (None too subtly, it occurs in front of a TV displaying a violent video game.) Heli is a grim, harsh movie about a grim, harsh world in which the drug wars allow unchecked machismo to commit all manner of atrocities, and in which the innocents who survive those atrocities find they have no choice but to get on with their lives. But it's also a darkly beautiful film, as Escalante takes care with the composition of each shot, and the wind on the plains sounds like it might have come from the depths of hell — if it weren't already there to begin with.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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