Bacurau: Summary and Review

Per the recommendation of the person who told me to watch this, I went into this film completely unaware of what it was about other than it is considered a ‘weird western.’ I would give that same recommendation to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet as it makes for a very interesting journey. So, if you haven’t seen it, get on that criterion collection asap. Set in a fictional small town in rural Brazil, the story opens with Teresa returning home for her grand mothers funeral after being away many years. We are introduced via her drive into the town to a main plot point in so far as the local government is restricting the towns access to a major water resource for reasons of corruption. As she gets reacquainted with the town we are given a small tour of the various eclectic villagers and how much her grandmother Carmelita meant to all of them. There is already a sense that something is boiling under the surface but we are unsure what as the audience until a bit after the funeral. Especially as the town takes what we later find out is an intense psychotropic drug prior to burying Carmelita. The whole village following the pallbearers as they sing a haunting song.

As we get a broader picture of the village we are introduced to Pacote via Teresa’s sexual interest in him and Lunga, a transgender outlaw whom is on the run but seems to be liked by the villagers as a whole. We get some small hints that Pacote is not quite what he seems based on comments from the villagers and later see he was a hitman of sorts via a youtube compilation of him killing people in the city while wearing a motorcycle helmet. We are then given a face to the town’s water crisis in the form of Tony Junior, a corrupt mayor running for re-election who randomly stops by town to try and curry favor/votes but is largely ignored and ultimately booed out of town. On his way out he drops a bunch of what essentially amounts to garbage for them to pick through, expired food, half torn up books for the school, and a large supply of an addictive medication that keeps people docile.

After this visit is where strange occurrences start happening, a water delivery truck is full of bullets, a drone shaped UFO following someone, the town disappearing off the internet/any online maps, and an odd couple from Rio de Janeiro passing through on motorbikes. The latter immediately drawing suspicion that ends up being warranted as they stick a signal jammer under a counter on their way out of the local store. From there the entire village loses cell phone reception and is basically cut off from the world. Things take a darker turn when a stampede of horses from a local farm runs through the town, when two villagers investigate the next day they find the entire family slaughtered. The couple on the motorbikes arrive as the men are about to find help and they kill both on the spot. We are then given a glimpse at who is behind all of this, the employers of the couple, when they go to report on what had happened. We find that this is all a game contrived by some omnipotent, powerful organization that communicates via satellite radio to the players of this game. A bunch of white people from the United States who get ‘points’ based on people they kill. The couple on the motorbikes were sent out as scouts for them to cut off the village before the players can swoop in and massacre everyone. The UFO drone being one of their surveillance tools. The players kill the couple for taking their points via killing the two men and decide to hunt down the villagers that evening after cutting their power.

By this point the village knows of the massacred family and decides to stage a plan of attack to get their assailants. This is where Pacote finds Lunga at their hideout to hit back with a true show of force. As night falls, more victims are claimed by the Americans, including a small child and an elderly couple trying to escape. The towns plan comes into focus as we follow each American as they try to get more points, each getting killed in some interesting, brutal way. As the final members are killed it is revealed via the town museum that the village has a history of standing up to oppression via violent uprising and that everyone in the village is fully armed. The weapons having been in display from different uprisings/time periods. If the motorbike couple had thoroughly investigated the area they would have seen this coming. The one who acted as a de facto leader, Michael, is captured as Tony Junior shows up in a luxury van to pick up the Americans. But upon seeing the massacre, tries to play it off like he had nothing to do with this. The town strips him naked and sends him into the desert tied to the back of a mule as they bury Michael alive in an underground cell as he yells ‘this is only the beginning.’

From start to finish this film kept me on the edge of my seat and the way it weaves the story is very beautiful, strange, and haunting. The ending being such a wild ride that as the credits rolled I had to stop and really re-think every that had happened. The brutal violence and revenge story is underpinned by a larger commentary on sexuality, poverty, gender, politics, and the invasion of outside forces against the innocent. I appreciated that throughout the film sexuality and nudity is presented very openly across people of different ages and body types. It feels very unlike how it is treated in a lot of mainstream media as this sort of one-dimensional, sanitized construct. In this village, people truly suck and fuck and that is cool as hell. It was also really nice to see a piece of media treat transgender people on equal terms with the rest of the story and characters. I feel like quite a few productions do this thing of like ‘hey! hey! we have this transgender character! look how inclusive we are!’ whereas this film blends them in like actual fucking people, rather than a bulleted list of ‘woke’ plot points in some writers pocket.

Perhaps the most obvious themes are ones of how local politicians will work with outside forces to oppress their own people. We see this both in Tony Junior selling the villages water rights to some unknown corporation and in how he works with this unnamed organization to wipe this village off the face of the earth. The former being a commentary on how a lot of politicians in South America treat their poorer citizens and the latter on how white countries, especially the US, will randomly invade whoever and whatever they please if it benefits them, leaving innocent blood in their wake. We have seen this time and time again from how the US has treated the Middle East on top of how we have treated pretty much all of South America. Civilians and families are randomly and unexpectedly brutalized by our military and government all the time. How many peaceful villages irl like this have fallen victim to our machine? We are given glimpses into each of the Americans thought process and lives, discovering that each essentially thinks of the villagers as no more than toys used to satiate some dark desire within them so they can operate as ‘normal’ people back home. Their unabashed evil coupled with the real life parallels on how the US government actually acts brings them beyond the realm of being ‘bad guys,’ they are each representative of true evil that stalks both this fictional and our real life world. Which makes the way each of them gets killed extremely satisfying. I am a little squeamish when it comes to over the top gore, but honestly found myself hooting and hollering as each of these assholes is picked off. Michael at the end yelling about how ‘this is only the beginning’ is both setting it up for a potential sequel (we never find out who is really on the satellite radio) and is additional commentary about how if left unchecked, the colonizers will continuously return and brutalize innocent civilians the world over. Overall, I think the best overarching lesson is that in poverty all we have is each other and that returning the violence our oppressors rain down on us is always justified.

My final thoughts are that other than all the great themes, this movie is very well produced, shot, edited, and written. The fact that it has not gotten more mainstream reception is in part due to covid delaying its theatrical release, but also it can be hard to get the word out on solid indie flicks. So this is my part in trying to get more word out there. There are other themes present that I don’t feel as qualified to comment on, like decoding the funeral song and use of psychotropic drugs at various points (perhaps a nod to indigenous traditions), so my review may be a bit incomplete, but w/e that’s life.

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Daniel Lazarus

Poetry, short fiction, with some TV/Film/Gaming reviews. I hate how this site limits formatting but w/e I’m here