Miss Bala shows another side of Mexico
Starring Stephanie Sigman and Irene Azuela. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, August 3, at the Vancity Theatre
Is Mexico a nutty enough place for everything that happens in Miss Bala to be for real? Well, yes, most of this shit has happened—just not during a mere 24 hours in the life of a reluctant beauty-pageant contestant. And so it is that Laura Guerrero, played memorably by newcomer Stephanie Sigman, gets more excitement than a small-town gal could ever really want.
When we meet Laura, this shy, unassumingly lovely girl is sick of working for her father’s dinky clothing business on the sleepy side of Tijuana. When her worldlier pal (Irene Azuela) talks her into joining a local beauty contest, she barely squeaks in, and they celebrate by going to a strip-mall nightclub to celebrate. Big mistake. The place is loaded with DEA agents and federal police—perfect targets for local druggies, who go in with guns blazing. Laura hides in the bathroom, where she’s noticed by cartel leader Lino (Noé Hernández), who shows mercy, either because of her innocent beauty or because he has other plans for her, or both.
Before the next day is over, she’ll smuggle guns and money across the U.S. border, appear on local television in several capacities, flirt with a general, and get caught in the crossfire between police and druggies—and there’s already a thin line between them at the best of times.
Young director Gerardo Naranjo, who wrote the script for Bala with Mauricio Katz, doesn’t mind piling up coincidences, or bodies. Laura can be seen as a stand-in for her whole beautiful, stricken country, and, as such, her passive collusion makes sense, even if it’s also kind of boring at times. But Naranjo is too fluid a filmmaker to let doldrums set in, and you end up understanding a little more about how sunny Mexico got un poco loco.
Watch the trailer for Miss Bala.