RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
• Theatrical Trailer
• Other trailers
“A modern-day Rocky.” – E Latino Weekly
Starring: Kuno Becker, Steven Bauer, Stephen Lang, Alex Nesic, Danay Garcia, Bruce McGill
Writers: Glen Hartford, Nicholas Siapkaris
Director: Jimmy Nickerson
Billed as “a modern-day Rocky,” From Mexico With Love tells the story of
Hector Villa – played by Mexican telenovela actor Kuno Becker – a
Mexican migrant worker who, along with his sick mother, works and lives
illegally across the border in Laredo, Texas on a ranch run by none
other than Col. Quaritch himself, Stephen Lang (doing his laziest Kris
Kristofferson) as farm owner Big Al Stevens. Villa stands up for
his mother, gets kicked off the ranch, and retreats to Mexico in order
to train to be a boxer by the decidedly and unexplainedly
un-Mexican Bruce McGill. A month later, he returns to Texas with
the help of Uncle Tito – played by Steven Bauer acting like he’s in some
after-school special on PBS – to fight Big Al’s son, Robert.
You can guess who wins.
Apparently the rapid-arm flapping technique was enough to stun the already
stunned-to-be-alive George C. Scott.
From the opening montage and voiceover, From Mexico With Love shows promise. Sure, it’s a bit on the nose, but what do you expect from this straight-to-DVD David-and-Goliath boxing tale? Well, the problem is that the montage – edited together from real footage of Mexicans illegally crossing the border – packs more emotion and drama than the rest of the film combined. And, as it turns out, way more fighting. You would think that having been the fight coordinator of bona fide classics Raging Bull and Rocky, director Jimmy Nickerson would be
able to stage one hell of a boxing match. Well… I’m sure you can
already see where this is going: You’d be wrong.
When it first started, I knew it wasn’t going to be a great movie. I figured it’d be syrupy and sappy and predictable to a tee — and, I was okay with that. I wanted the bad guys to be uncompromisingly bad and the good guys impossibly good; I wasn’t looking for a gray area type of morality tale here. Just a clear cut goal for the protagonist, a how-will-they-end-up-together-but-you-know-they-will love story, and swelling music at the end when our hero lands that final knockout punch in slo-mo sending the undefeated foe down to the mat for the first and last time. That’s not at all what Nickerson and his screenwriters, Glen Hartford and Nicholas Siapkaris provide. Watching this movie makes me long for the expert filmmaking of Teen Wolf and the emotional depth and acting range of Rocky IV, which is essentially just an opening scene followed by three extended montages — at least those movies knew what they were and did it well.
“What kind of girl do you think I am!?”
“I just bared your shoulder! I mean, c’mon, this is a PG-13 movie. You could take your shirt off
and we’d still be cool with the MPAA.”
The main issue (aside from the abysmally staged fights, of course) is that there’s no sense of urgency or pacing whatsoever in the film because the screenwriters failed to include that main necessity in creating conflict: high stakes. Despite what we hear everyday in the news, the Mexican bordertown in Nickerson’s world is pretty devoid of violence or hardships. McGill runs a cantina that doubles as a boxing training gym; Uncle Tito visits his family who all seem to be doing just fine. And since Big Al Stevens didn’t even fire Maria or Villa’s mother after his ill-advised outburst, this isn’t Rocky avenging Apollo’s death here. And because of this, we really have no interest in seeing whether or not he beats Robert. (I’ll save you 98 minutes and quench your curiosity: he does.)
The lack of compelling drama isn’t merely lost on the audience, either. The only actor who seems to really be trying at all is Kuno Becker, who might have the looks of fellow countrymen Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, but lacks any of their charisma and depth. Becker looks the part of a lightweight, scrappy boxer well enough for the sake of this movie, but even he didn’t seem all that convinced that he needed to fight Robert. That being said, I like Bruce McGill in just about anything he does. He’s like the poor man’s Robert Duvall mixed with latter-day De Niro’s lack of discrimination with which roles he takes. We need more McGill in our lives.
Had Stallone not completely redeemed the Rocky series with Rocky Balboa, I could maybe come up with some sort of joke that allowed for From Texas With Boring to act as a sort of spiritual installment. But I can’t. The one thing I can say for the film is that it’s decently shot, considering the obviously low budget. Cinematographers Rick Lamb and Ted Chu get some surprisingly solid nighttime shots that aren’t just bathed in blue light. (Probably because they couldn’t afford lights, but still.) Sure, there are a couple of completely unnecessary crane shots while Villa and his family work in the fields where you know Nickerson said to them: “Listen, fellas, we got this crane in the budget for one day, so go nuts while I go drink some Shiner Bock.” Too bad they couldn’t help Nickerson salvage the fight scenes, which were abysmal. I’ve seen better staging on homemade YouTube videos of kids wrestling in their basements. And, at the end of the day, if you have a boxing movie with pathetic and minimal fight scenes, you really have nothing.
“And rubbin’, son, is racin’.”
“Boxer! I said, I’m a boxer, not driver!”
According to the DVD, this movie had a theatrical trailer. I’d be really curious to know which theatrical release had that distinct pleasure. There are also other Lionsgate trailers for movies that you’re better off having not seen.
“If Cameron waits another 10 years before shooting Avatar 2, I’m seriously going to go all Tea Party on everyone’s ass right now.“