Dance with the Devil (1997)

Dance with the Devil (1997)

Released: 1997
Genre: Action, Crime, Genre, Horror
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Starring: Harley Cross, Javier Bardem, Rosie Perez, ,
Run time: 129 min
IMDb: 6.3/10
Country: Mexico
Views: 21864


Rough girl Perdita and her demonic lover Romeo Dolorosa need humans to sacrifice following Romeo’s religion before he can go on a mission ordered by mob boss Santos. They kidnap teen sweethearts Duane and Estelle and travel with them to Las-Vegas.
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User Reviews: Álex de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango (1997) is an outrageously wild and violent road movie that has greater premise than the actual film. The film is based on the Barry Gifford book as was David Lynch’s film Wild at Heart (1990), too, and the character Perdita is the lead character in Iglesia’s film whereas she had only a small part in Lynch’s much more noteworthy film.

Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez) is an attractive and exotic Mexican girl with violent past and future, as we soon learn. She meets mysterious Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem) who practises some strange and bloody voodoo/Satanism rituals and also needs human victims for his acts he performs for and with some cult. They team up, and start their violent journey near the border of Mexico and the USA in order to steal a huge truck carrying loads of human fetuses for some sleazy pedophiliac mafia boss. Yes it sounds very outrageous and once all the characters are introduced the level of wildness reaches its most breathtaking level.

The film is pretty empty in content for sure, unlike David Lynch’s film, for example. It has one quite funny bit of commentary about stupid mediocre TV audience that gets its meaning for life through various TV shows and commercialism related to it, and that is exactly the kind of humor that can be found in Iglesia’s another outrageous (gore) comedy Acción Mutante (1993). But mostly Perdita Durango seems to concentrate on sudden and rather shocking bursts of violence and steamy sex that will definitely annoy censors throughout the world. There is a silent moment at the end which tells something about what is happening inside the character’s head and what she has learnt but still it could have been a whole serious theme for the film. Also the way how the kidnapped couple change in their dangerous situation is quite repulsive as in that world it seems like the more selfish and mean you are the more you will succeed and survive. The young couple is not used as it should have been if Iglesia would have liked to include some serious and dramatic elements to the film and characters and thus make a more noteworthy piece of powerful film.

The other characters are also very nasty and perverse, completely unable to control their violent and sexual instincts, but they are also quite blackly humorous (the mafia boss, the two FBI agents etc.) and so the tone of the film is not too serious at all. Most of the characters are just animals in the burning heat of the border trying to exploit and survive from each other. Romeo’s character is definitely as wicked as they come but still he is far from the effect of Willem Dafoe in Lynch’s film, where the character was the other side of human nature, whereas Igleasia never seems to be interested in depicting things so deep in this film. His characters are just bad, violent, miserable and selfish scumbags and there are not too many, or any, normal and safe feeling individuals in the film. The FBI caricature played by a film maker Alex Cox (Repo Man) is quite funny and makes fun on all the serious agent characters of the cinematic history.

The film is far from the greatness of Iglesia’s wonderful El Dia de la Bestia aka The Day of the Beast (1995) with its philosophic elements and incredible atmosphere with great visuality. Perdita hasn’t got any genuinely interesting and inventive camerawork or cinematic magic and even the rites Romeo commits are not as chilling as in, for example, Wes Craven’s Serpent and the Rainbow (1987). The soundtrack by Simon Boswell is mediocre, nothing too special in my opinion even though the director praises his work for this film and in general very much. He is a talented composer but his soundtrack for this film is not so memorable.

I saw the most uncut (minus one 3 seconds image of the mafia boss slapping the face of a little girl, still this brief image is in the Spanish festival print) version released on DVD in Germany, and as far as I know, the Spanish tape is like this DVD, too. But all the other versions released, like the Hong Kong, UK, US, Swedish, Finnish and so on versions on VHS and DVD are severely cut for sex, violence and drug use. The "uncut" version I saw is quite strong at times and includes some scenes of extreme and vicious violence that are also more or less gratuitous to say the least, as well as the numerous sex scenes, but they definitely tell something about the brute instincts of the characters as mentioned. Overall the humor in this film is very black and just plain sick and that comes clear at least with the numerous car crash deaths in the film, so Iglesia is definitely not depicting his characters too heroic or lucky in their ways of life!

Perdita Durango is not deep or meaningful film enough but the ending saves the film from even greater failure. Many will find this entertaining as it has graphic violence, "cool" characters, sex and other forbidden taboos on screen, but if one is looking for a film that has something to say and really concentrate on it so that we can call it a theme, then Perdita Durango is not among the best. Still it could have been so much worse, with bad and stupid actors and characters and boring segments: now it runs 124 PAL minutes but never really feels boring or too long so Iglesia’s way to tell the story and cut all the unnecessary parts off is present here. He definitely is a talented director but manages to achieve more than 6/10, too.

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