‘Buy Me a Gun’: Film Review | Cannes 2018

Mexican writer-director Julio Hernandez Cordon’s sixth film looks at kids’ lives in a cartel-controlled segment of Mexico.

Buy Me a Gun (Comprame Un Revolver) is a listless, meandering yarn that takes an unfocused look at a few kids’ lives in a barren, cartel-controlled part of Mexico. Acknowledging his debt to Mark Twain by naming two of his characters Huck and Finn (and adopting a fashionably up-to-date stance by turning Huck into a girl), Mexican writer-director Julio Hernandez Cordon, in his sixth film, trades on the perilous extremes of life in lawless territory that makes the Old West look tame, but the benign and shallow dramatic treatment increasingly drains viewer patience. International prospects look minimal.

The setup initially looks to offer some offbeat possibilities for a story set in such violent circumstances. In an initial touch not without absurdist humor, a hapless drug-addled father is stuck keeping a desert-area baseball stadium in good condition so the local cartel boss and his gang can play whenever they want; the sight of armed guards everywhere and the absence of any fans feed the macabre atmosphere.

The Bottom Line

A missed opportunity.

There’s a small gang of prepubescent kids about, including the groundsman’s son, whom the dad tries to keep hidden, and his daughter, the Huck character, who always wears a mask to conceal her gender and consorts with some boys who camouflage themselves with straw and other items. If Hendandez Cordon had chosen to focus entirely on the kids from the outset, he might have had something here. Instead, most of the film’s first half is devoted to the father’s toadying to his armed superiors while always trying to find a little stray stash for himself. His cowering attitude is so extreme as to remind at times of Dennis Weaver’s loony motel manager in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

One night the entire crew heads out into the night for a big party in another cartel boss’ territory. The kids lay low, and for good reason, as there’s no way this night is going to end well for most of the guests. But the writer-director shows little inclination to either build suspense or maintain dramatic focus; characters (including the initially dominant father and the first drug lord) come and go casually, and the kids are scarcely individualized. What the filmmaker chooses to focus upon appears almost random a fair amount of the time and there’s no point of view. A viewer shouldn’t be able to easily disengage from a situation so rife with opportunities to build tension, but this film allows it to happen. Despite its many built-in melodramatic elements, the result is downright dull.

The Huck Finn connection never really kicks in thoroughly until the end, which, in retrospect, should have been the beginning. The sight of the girl Huck guiding a raft down a river through sand dunes is the most striking in the film and her adventures hereon would be something to see — a young female leading some boys on an unlikely journey through perilous cartel territory in northern Mexico. It’s an idea free for any takers.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight)

Production: Woo Films, Burning Blue

Cast: Matilde Hernandez Guinea, Rogelio Sosa, Sostenes Rojas, Wallace Pereyda, Angel Leonel Corral, Angel Rafael Yanez

Director-screenwriter: Julio Hernandez Cordon

Director of photography: Nicolas Wong

Production designer: Ivonne Fuentes

Editor: Lenz Mauricio Claure

Music: Alberto Torres

84 minutes