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Perdita Durango (Dance with the Devil) (4K Ultra HD)
Unlike his black horror comedy The Day of the Beast (which I also reviewed this week), Alex de la Iglesia's Perdita Durango is quite graphic, and likely will not appeal to all audiences. This one is definitely reserved for the crowd that enjoys Wild at Heart and Natural Born Killers, and the titular character here plays a small role in the former. Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem star as a pair of deranged criminal lovers who travel from Mexico to Las Vegas in an insane scheme that involves robberies, cosmetics, cult sacrifices and human fetuses, leaving a trail of blood and chaos in their wake. The two leads provide committed performances here, and, while Perdita Durango occasionally suffers for all its excess, you cannot say the actors phoned anything in.
Perdita (Perez) meets Romeo Dolorosa (Bardem) in Mexico, where Romeo has robbed a bank to pay of his debt to a loan shark. Not one to sit on his heels, Romeo also pretends to be a Santeria priest and engages in wild, staged rituals that involve hacking up corpses while Romeo is high on coke. He also works for a gangster (Don Stroud) and transports human fetuses to Las Vegas to be used in making cosmetics. Perdita is even more insane than Romeo, and convinces him to kidnap a young couple, Dwayne (Harley Cross) and Estelle (Aimee Graham), and turn them into gringo cannibal sacrifices in one of Romeo's rituals. As all this is going on, a truckload of vengeful gangsters working for a man Romeo previously ripped off tracks Romeo and Perdita down, and D.E.A. agent Woody Dumas (James Gandolfini) tries to stop their bloodshed from this side of the border. Still with me?
The film absolutely blows through its first half, taking no prisoners. There is plenty of bloodshed and a disturbing sexual assault performed by the pair on their captives, and much of the violence and depravity is played with comedic undertones. If you know what you're getting into, Perdita Durango is fairly entertaining, in a pulpy, somewhat offensive way. The proceedings do get a bit long-winded before the climax, but Severin does present the film in its uncut 126-minute director's cut version that restores violence and sex cut by the original U.S. distributor. I will look at Perez in a whole new light after watching this thriller, and both she and Bardem offer compelling work here. The film is not always pleasant to watch, but genre fans will enjoy this tale of two utterly reprehensible people.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Severin indicates this is a restored 4K presentation, but, unlike with The Day of the Beast, they do not commit to it being restored from the original negative. Nevertheless, this 2.35:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 image with HDR10 is pretty good. This is a stylish film, with frequent color grading and some sequences of heightened reality. The HDR pass offers gorgeously saturated highlights and deep blacks, and outdoor scenes, in particular, look excellent. Fine-object detail is strong, the grain appears fairly consistent throughout, and I noticed no major issues or artificial manipulation.
Spanish and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes are included. These are lively, immersive mixes with plenty of surround action and LFE support. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and is balanced appropriately with effects and score. Gunshots, explosions and cult rituals make good use of the surrounds, and I noticed no issues with distortion. This is a predominately English-language film, but English subtitles do accompany Spanish dialogue if desired.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K disc and a Blu-ray. The discs are packed in a black 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The 4K disc hosts two Trailers (3:27/HD) and the Blu-ray houses the remainder of the content: On the Border is an interview with de la Iglesia; Writing Perdita Durango (16:43/HD) offers remarks from Barry Gifford; Dancing with the Devil (12:57/HD) is both the film's original U.S. title and an interview with Rebekah Mckendry, a film journalist; Narcosatanicos: Perdita Durango and the Matamoros Cult is an interesting piece about the events that inspired the film; and Canciones de Amor Maldito: The Music of Perdita Durango is an interview with composer Simon Boswell.
Though it's not necessarily a film with mass appeal, Alex de la Iglesia's Perdita Durango offers searing performances from Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem. This bloody tale of criminal lovers is violent and unhinged, and Severin presents the film in its uncut version. This 4K release offers strong technical specs and a host of solid bonus material. Recommended
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.