Rabbit punch


Bruising performances in this candid portrayal of official corruption in Mexico raise Conejo en la luna above its technical limitations


Conejo en la luna
Jorge Ramírez Suárez, Mexico-UK
2004, Beanca/ Head Gear/FIDECINE/IMCINE
112 minutes, Spanish and English

Reviewed by Eugene Carey

LATAMROB rating: ****

ANYONE even remotely familiar with the way things really work in Mexico will not be unmoved by Jorge Ramírez Suárez’s examination of the endemic corruption that rots the country from within.

Those who have ever had the misfortune of being washed into, or even splashed by, the anarchic sewer of what passes for Mexico’s criminal justice system will recognise with fearful resignation the web of greed and deceit that it is all-but impossible to escape – and that people outside the country find so hard to understand.

Indeed, the candour of Conejo en la luna (Rabbit on the Moon) and the director’s determination to speak the unspeakable with none of the chauvinistic Mexican defensiveness that so often greets trenchant criticism of corruption in the country raise this movie high above its technical flaws and dull cinematography.

Conejo en la luna must also be praised for providing a balanced insight into the other species of corruption and decadence that prosper in silence outside Latin America in hypocritical, finger-wagging G8 countries such as the UK and feed like hungry carrion upon the abuses of an entire stratum of powerful individuals in poorer nations bleeding their people of wealth and prestige.

This is an important strand of a script that succeeds both in telling a story at several levels while maintaining a high level of suspense, for it highlights the incontrovertible fact that corruption in developing or newly-developed countries with dysfunctional institutions never exists in isolation and is almost always fuelled by the ferociously competitive prerogatives of global industries such as the arms trade, in which Britain is a leading player.

It is very possible that, had this not been a British-Mexican co-production, this crucial factor in the equation would have been displaced by the imperative to deliver a fast-paced thriller. Fortunately, we are treated to an argument in which, wherever he hails from, a corrupt, decadent man is a corrupt, decadent man.

Mendacity and sexual perversion

An illicit arms deal between Mexican and British officials forms the backdrop to a messy assassination set up by a minister and a top apparatchik of the ruling party in which the hitman is captured. A dodgy salesman (Carlos Cobos) who furnished the assassin tries to sell land to a naive, young graphic artist Antonio (Bruno Bichir), who is then fingered as the ideal scapegoat for the crime by a corrupt federal police chief ostensibly leading the investigation (Jesús Ochoa). A friend helps Antonio flee to London but his British wife Julie (Lorraine Pilkington) and baby daughter are imprisoned by the police chief. The tentacles of Mexican corruption reach out to the UK as the party official at the heart of the plot (Álvaro Guerrero) tries to erase the trail while feathering his nest from a diplomatic perch.

No aspect of corruption in Mexico escapes the lens of director Jorge Ramírez Suárez, from the party leader’s mendacity and sexual perversions, to the federal cop’s addiction to rape and murder, to the trafficking in kidnapped infants by women officers. There is also a liberal serving of the menacing machismo and fatal cynicism that contribute to such pathology – Mexican cultural markers that scores of authors have drawn attention to (see recently, for example, Richard Grant’s Bandit Roads or Enrique Serna’s Fear of Animals).

While the plot delivers a passably happy resolution to this sordid tale, it is far more likely that – had this story been true – the criminals would have got away with it, the bodies would never have been found, and the evil ambassador would have ended up in Switzerland counting the hundreds of millions of dollars he had redirected to his personal account there as he indulged in some bondage before breakfast. The UK legal system grudgingly appears to come to the rescue, at least technically, although as Antonio is flown back to his forsaken land he acknowledges with telling sincerity that the Mexican officials who had snared him would never, in fact, admit that they had done wrong. And so it goes on …

Conejo en la luna at times feels like a television drama and has a very British sense of scale in terms of its undistinguished, close-focus cinematography and mundane use of sets, but its bold script and strong performances by Cobos, Bichir, Ochoa, Pilkington and Guerrero make this a provocative and, at times, gripping tale.

Eugene Carey is a freelance writer