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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Playa Azul
Playa Azul
Vanguard // Unrated // May 27, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted June 10, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: Politics is all about the art of compromise, no matter where they take place. All too often, the first thing to be compromised is the values and ethics of the politician, which is why so many people have great distain for them. With all the dissention in the politics of the USA, you'd think we were the worst victims of the baser side of human nature but this is not the case. One example of a much more corrupt political system is Mexico. The official pay their governmental employees receive, at all levels mind you, is not very much and the results are that a great many of them resort to bribery, theft, and other assorted means by which to make it ahead. When the inevitable change comes, new leaders or political parties taking control, it is well known that Mexico throws the former office holders to the sharks, at least temporarily. Playa Azul is a movie about one such man, and a study in family loyalty to boot.

In the movie, a man called "The Engineer" has stepped down from his position as Vice President of a bank as the result of an accusation of fraud. He owns a lot of properties throughout the region and summons his family to meet with him at a rundown hotel, the first property he ever bought, in order to discuss what has happened and what he plans to do. The family all arrive and the movie starts looking into the dynamic of the family as well as the political situation on a small scale.

I liked the look at how the man coped, internally at least, with his situation. While it was acted in an overly dramatic manner, the point was made clear that he was way too optimistic about his chances of improving his fortune. The simple fact that he had a considerable fortune, even though he was a government employee (this wasn't 100% clear but the impression was given that the bank was a governmentally owned bank), made it look like he was actually guilty. As the evidence mounted, he continued to hold fast to his claims of innocence, disregarding his lawyer's advice to leave the country. His actions definitely left the impression that he believed his innocence, regardless of what the truth was. This allowed for some moderately interesting discussion between the family members and himself. After all, if he was really guilty, he'd have flown the coop and left them all behind.

Another thing I liked was that the movie showed the characters as having very distinctive personal agendas that typically conflicted with stereotypical ideas on family values. The wife makes it clear about her plans as does the daughter, the son shows his true colors when the heat is on and even the long time employees discover that they are expendable, no matter how loyal they had been in the past. The political friends acted exactly like you'd expect them to, wanting to distance themselves in order to avoid being smeared by the scandal themselves, so you can't say the movie didn't pay homage to political realities too.

What I disliked about the movie was the easy out it took at the end. For all the optimism displayed by the lead character, you'd think the screenwriter might've figured out some less conventional ending for a couple of the leads. Further, the movie had a number of soft spots where the script could've been tightened up or edited out to make the movie more focused.

In all, it was a flawed movie made on a low budget that discussed relevant issues in a somewhat unique manner. As such, it merits a rental to those willing to put up with the lower than average production values and subtitles. It's no classic of Mexican cinema but it is somewhat entertaining to those of us interested in politics.

Picture: The picture was presented in it's original 1.33:1 ratio Full Frame format color. The picture lacked in a number of ways, from the lack of clarity and grain to the bleeding colors and lack of a true black in the darker scenes. The print itself had a number scratches and flaws with the transfer somewhat lacking too. I had problems getting this to play on an RCA dvd player but it gave my Toshiba no problems.

Sound: The sound was presented in Spanish with English subtitles and didn't appear to be in true stereo. The vocals were reasonably clear and the score seemed pleasant enough for the budget.

Extras: none at all

Final Thoughts: The movie was made over 10 years ago in Mexico on a shoestring budget so I can understand the production values being below average. The main issues for me would revolve around the content and I thought it was pretty well thought out. Sure, it was a limited view of a huge problem in Mexico but it helped provide something of an insider's look into that problem. Our own problems with regard to politics not withstanding, it gives you something to think about. For that, I give it a rating of Rent It.

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