Protestors infiltrate a high-class backyard wedding, loot the safes, graffiti all the art in the house, extort millions in ransom money, and kill anyone who resists. Later, part of restoring order is for uniformed guards to execute a half-dozen of the suspected kidnappers, douse the bodies in kerosene, and torch them. Director Michel Franco (After Lucia) shows us these different perversions of justice, one slowly bleeding into the other, in order to emphasize how little there is to inherently set them apart. The rich have sewn their own ruin before the movie begins: the violence of Mexico City’s income disparities begets the dystopian mayhem that follows. The force that puts down the mayhem is only a legalized barbarism.
Still, it’s hard to see pregnant women shot through the belly, or the daughters of high-powered aristocrats herded into a cage where they are numbered with a Sharpie on the forehead and raped, and feel that anyone is being served the most just of desserts. The kidnappers and rioters are by and large anonymous, even faceless; Franco mostly films them from over the shoulder. The dizzying, near-comic collapse of values under the duress of poverty and despair echoes Buñuel’s Los olvidados (1950), while the explosive street violence and crackdown tactics recall those documented in The Battle of Chile (1975–1979) by Patricio Guzmán. While hard to watch, this is a brave film for extrapolating from the paradoxes of an unequal society through to one horrifyingly imagined version of its downfall.