Against his father's wishes, Pedro - a naive kid from Mexico City - joins the Federal Highway Patrol. His simple desire to do good rapidly comes into conflict with the reality of police work in a lonely rural environment populated by poor farmers, rich drug dealers, beautiful women, and his father's ghost. Further Information:
-'Patrulleros y Patrulleras' mini Documentary
-"Edge City" Short Film by Alex Cox
-"From Edge City to Mapimi" mini Documentary
-Audio Commentary by Alex Cox and Producer Lorenzo O'Brien
Catalog Number: MC-1178
Genre: Drama, Political / Social
Length: 100 minutes
DVD Region: 0
TV System: NTSC
Label: Helltown LLC
This is a Microcinema Exclusive title.
Program MC-1178 is available for wholesale from Microcinema DVD. Contact info[at]microcinema.com or call at +1-415-447-9750
Program MC-1178 may be licensed for Exhibition.
Films In Compilation
El Patrullero / Hightway Patrolman directed by
Political / Social,
An episodic look at a young man's life in Mexico's national highway patrol. We follow Pedro Rojas from cadet training and his rookie assignment in a northern border area, to his quick courtship, his taking of bribes ("la mordida"), and his slow exposure to drug smuggling. Rojas re-forms his idealism as youthful naivete gives way to an adult's complicated choices.
2011-12-08DVD Talk By Bill Gibron
When the one two career-ending punch of Straight to Hell and Walker landed at director Alex Cox's door, he was effectively blacklisted from Hollywood. No matter the mainstream success of his debut, Repo Man, or the cult classicism of his take on the seminal Sex Pistol's bassist, Sid and Nancy, he was a man without a studio or a support group to offer an outlet. Having befriended some in the Mexican film industry, he was eventually hired to helm an unusual police drama. Entitled El Patrullero (translated, Highway Patrolman), it was virtually unseen in America. Now, some two decades later, DVD has brought about a resurgence in Cox's canon. Among the mini-masterworks audiences have finally experienced are Searchers 2.0 and a visionary recut of Hell. Now, with this lost gem, it's clear that this was one filmmaker whose ambition failed to gel with what '80s Tinseltown had in mind. Thanks to home video, that era's loss is our gain.
Going against his father's wishes, young Pedro Rojas (Roberto Sosa) decides to become a Mexican patrullero - a highway patrolman. While the pay is limited and the possibility of advancement small, he believes in the honor of duty. One day, he stops a farmer named Griselda (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez) for illegally transporting workers. Soon, they are married. Pedro then discovers the dangers and personal pitfalls of being the sole strong arm of the law in a remote area of the country that is overrun with lawlessness and corruption. He starts drinking and takes up with a kind prostitute named Maribel (Vanessa Bauche). When his best friend has a fatal run in with some drug dealers, however, Pedro disavows his responsibility and prepares for revenge...the only way he knows how.
As with the other lost entries in Alex Cox's oeuvre, Highway Patrolman is a revelation. It indicates that this complicated artist, a man who literally gained international fame and lost it within a significantly short period of time, was unfair judged and critically castigated. Today, the Criterion Collection champions his oddly effective Walker, whereas two decades back, it was seen as misguided enough to warrant exile. Sure, Straight to Hell was an indulgence, but it the DIY world of punk (where it found most of its cast), it was eventually embraced and later became a benchmark for true outsider cinema. It was as if Cox purposely tried to ruin his reputation by making the kind of movies he wanted, and the industry responded with the kind of professional admonishment that few survive. It happens all the time. Michael Cimino is still paying for Heaven's Gate, and in many ways, Cox continues of suffer - even without bankrupting an entire company or forcing the firing of many studio suits.
All past problems aside, Highway Patrolman is the necessary link in the filmmaker's forced reinvention. It is an unique experience, one that often feels like a documentary doused with farce. For the most part, Cox gives us the heat and vibe of Mexican corruption, a lingering desert wind of wasted lives and worried looks. Pedro may think he can survive without being stained by his assignment, but he quickly learns that everything about a patrolman is painted in bribes, kick-backs, and pale promises. Highly comic moments ensue. The way in which the story handles his marriage suggests its hasty nature. The manner in which his wife turns from support to strumpet is equally enlightening. Once he hooks up with the pretty prostitute with a growing drug problem, Pedro is doomed. Highway Patrolman then becomes an exercise in watching one man slowly destroy himself - both internally and externally. For every beating or gunshot wound, our lead loses another part of his soul.
Utilizing an arch aesthetic approach - something called plano secuencia, or uninterrupted shots via dolly, tracking, Stedicam, or handheld camera - Cox gets right into the mix. He maneuvers in and around situations and circumstances. This allows the more typical cinematic devices (a long shot of Pedro crossing over a massive ravine on a rickety bridge) to really shine. Also important is the casting. Cox uses local talent, avoiding real acting bravado to get a more earthy, textural feel to the performances. Even the occasional lapses into amateurism provides a prescient spark. While the story can seem a bit scattered and sectional (there is a real vignette style to the narrative at first), it all comes together in the end. There, we see how simple Pedro's aims were...and how complicated the results are. Highway Patrolman doesn't strive for a happy ending. Instead, it earns its rewards the hard way - just like the man who made it.
As part of a fascinating revival of Cox's work, Microcinema International offers up Highway Patrolman in an excellent DVD package. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is excellent, bright and colorful with lots of vibrancy and drive. Cox's control of the image is never in question and many sequences sizzle with South of the Border atmosphere.
On the sound side of things, Highway Patrolman delivers a wonderful Dolby Digital Stereo mix which balances the needs of the enigmatic soundtrack with the Spanish dialogue perfectly. English subtitles do a decent job in the translation, though those familiar with the language will hear more than one liberty being taken (especially when it comes to curse words).
The added content begins with a near definitive DVD commentary track which really paints a portrait of Cox, and his career, in flux. With the help of producer Lorenzo O'Brien, we are walked through the beginnings of this film, as well as the personal and professional problems that had to be overcome. Similarly, a mini-documentary (functioning as a kind of making-of) fills in many of the missing years' blanks. There are a pair of additional featurettes which also add to our understanding of the movie and its subject. Considering its rarity and the man who made it, the bonus features here are a treasure trove of insight.
Easily earning a Highly Recommended rating, Highway Patrolman proves that Alex Cox didn't leave the limelight on purpose. Instead, he was pushed out by bean counters more interested in box office and commerciality than art and its practitioners. There is nothing here that would warrant rejection under the current studio system except for the subject matter, approach, and overall payoff. In Tinseltown, everything must be neat and tidy. Answers must be easy and issues recognizable and readily overcome. For our titular hero, nothing could be further from the truth. The same can also be said for the man who brought him to life. Those incapable of living within the system seem destined to be destroyed by it. This is the fate of our harried highway patrolman, and Alex Cox specifically. Too bad. Film fans deserve better.
2011-12-07GreenCine By Philip Tatler
4 1/2 stars out of 5
For whatever reason, Alex Cox – the iconoclast behind Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, and Straight to Hell – has never quite enjoyed the indie godfather reputation of Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch. Having created several of the best American films of the 1980s, Cox dropped off the cultural radar after the commercial failure of the fitfully brilliant Walker – his single stab at a studio-backed, comparatively large-budgeted film. During the two decades since, while Cox has languished due to a self-proclaimed “blacklist”, he’s directed seven little-seen films.
Fortunately, Microcinema has recently issued a few of the overlooked films on region-free discs, hopefully contributing to a rediscovery of Cox’s work. Primary among these releases is 1991’s El Patrullero (Highway Patrolman), the first film Cox made after Walker.
The first ten minutes of Highway Patrolman announce it as a taut homage to (or satire of) a certain type of cop film. The film doesn’t necessarily open so much as get fired from a revolver; Cox immediately sets the stage for a ‘70s-style cop-sploitation pic, complete with wailing sirens, a desaturated green-brown color template, and a percussive score. The film maintains a fierce energy through the opening sequences – taking us through the final days of training academy for Cadet Rojas (Roberto Sosa) the patrolman of the title. In addition to physical training and driving practice, the cadets are indoctrinated into totalitarianism. “When you follow a vehicle,” the instructor barks “stop it first and then decide what they've done.” Most importantly, he reminds them, is the mantra of the force: “They always break the law.” The relentless pace is reminiscent of the character intros in Scorsese’s Departed and suggests the film is going to be a similarly bleak tapestry of corruption.
However, while Rojas and his friend Cadet Guerrero (Bruno Bichir) drink and dance at their graduation ceremony, the sickly strains of an atonal mariachi band announce an interesting tonal shift. Suddenly the film is more “highway” than patrolman. Rojas and Guerrero are assigned to a remote section of road, deep in the Mexican interior. Rojas has graduated with high marks, been given one of the best cars the force can provide, and applies himself accordingly.
The film begins to unfold as a series of episodes, depicting the day-to-day drudgeries of Rojas as the excitement of the job begins to wear off. Rojas is manipulated into letting a sobbing woman go, despite multiple traffic violations. To fulfill arrest quotas, he’s forced to bust truckloads of day laborers, people only trying to make a living. Drunk drivers, disrespectful gringos, domestic disturbances… the reality of the highway undermines the adrenal power of the training section.
“Even the buzzards are at a loss here,” Guerrero remarks about their assignment to the Mexican hinterland. Soon, Rojas is married. To support his family, Rojas begins taking bribes to augment his paltry salary. The slide into corruption has feels inevitable to it and Sosa, who’s brilliantly understated throughout the film, does a great job of combining the regret and resolve accompanying this desperate compromise.
Though Highway Patrolman quiets down throughout the first hour of vignettes, a plot involving ruthless drug dealers that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lethal Weapon movie soon kicks in, propelling the film to a startling climax. One of the great things about Highway Patrolman is its unsettled narrative; it’s never clear where Cox and screenwriter/producer Lorenzo O’Brien are taking the proceedings.
Initially, Cox – a director known for creating irreverent, anti-authoritarian caricatures – seems to be weaving a darkly humorous look at "The Man". As the film progresses, however, it becomes a bit more grounded and less wry, with Rojas becoming more and more a real man and less of a symbol. Cox, aided by Sosa’s quiet performance, pulls off a difficult feat here, creating a nuanced, sympathetic portrait of man resigned to his Sisyphean task. It’s an uncynical look at a person in a cynical world.
The DVD is generously appointed with behind-the-scenes information and, most interestingly, Edge City, Alex Cox’s first short produced while he was at UCLA. Here’s hoping that Microcinema’s release helps Highway Patrolman cement its deserved spot in the pantheon of cop films.
2011-11-18MSN - Videodrone By SeanAX
After Alex Cox proved himself unmarketable in the US, he went South and toiled in the low budget film industry in Mexico and within the tight restrictions of the Mexican studios he turned out another powerful, personal little film which even received limited theatrical distribution in the US in 1992. "Highway Patrolman" (Microcinema) chronicles the descent of a rookie cop into the morass of corruption and moral self destruction fostered by the very system he works within (an allegory for Mexican politics in general?). Austerely shot on the desolate highways and empty plains of Durango, Cox effectively uses long takes and extended tracking shots to communicate the pace of life while keeping the focus on the young cop and his experiences. Robert Sosa is terrific as the idealistic newlywed ready to make a difference, and every compromise he makes takes that much more life out of the character, replaced with a weary acceptance of… well, almost anything. The DVD debut features commentary by Cox and producer Lorenzo O'Brien and three shorts.
2011-11-15MSN Entertainment Canada By Norman Wilner
Highway Patrolman: Never before available on DVD, this 1992 study in Spanish-language corruption from "Repo Man" director Alex Cox gets a special edition from Microcinema International with a new transfer, a commentary track from Cox and producer Lorenzo O'Brien and three featurettes.
2010-07-01Los Angeles Times By Kevin Thomas
HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is maverick director Alex Cox's finest film to date and represents his best work since his terrific debut feature, the funky, surreal 1984 REPO MAN. Released in the US in 1994, HIGHWAY PATROLMAN, in Spanish with English subtitles, opens just the way one would expect of Cox -- with a darkly satirical take on the subject, an idealistic young Mexican's training at the National Highway Patrol Academy in Mexico City.
"But the British-born Cox and his producer-screenwriter, Lorenzo O'Brien, a Peruvian raised in Mexico, gradually get more serious once their wiry, wistful hero (Roberto Sosa) takes up his first assignment in a remote town in Durango.
"It would seem that working in a foreign language has given Cox the necessary freedom and detachment not to worry about being hip and to take the plunge into classic screen storytelling, backed by O'Brien's superbly structured script. While it rightly skewers American hypocrisy and complicity in Mexican drug trafficking, HIGHWAY PATROLMAN abounds in the virtues of traditional filmmaking. Indeed, there is an epic quality, moral as well as visual, to the hero's odyssey that recalls the westerns of John Ford and such John Huston films as TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE...
"In its way, HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is a coming-of-age film, both for its hero and for Cox himself. It's also a beautiful, gritty film, shot by Miguel Garzon and scored evocatively by Zander Schloss, steeped in the atmosphere of vast, desert-like vistas slashed by highways sizzling in the heat.
2010-07-01L.A. Weekly By F.X. Feeney
The hero is a young idealist fresh out of the police academy in Mexico City, ordered to a post in a mountainous, fir-treed outback where corruption reigns supreme. No one can tread these grounds untouched, not even him. The performances throughout are intelligent, understated. There's a nervy moment of stylish flourish when Cox's floating steadicam [sic -- read CAMERA] accompanies our hero, bloodied and limping, down a stretch of highway, midway though his life's defining gun battle -- but for the most part Cox's calm, feline gaze never judges or reproaches, never telegraphs to us what we're supposed to feel about what we're looking at. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is an astonishing, mature piece of work. It's like a Bresson film with a rock & roll pulse.
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