Eloy de la Iglesia… now there is a mother fucker that wasn’t afraid to bring the seedy side of life to the silver screen (check out my review of his classic home invasion shocker Cannibal Man right here to bear witness to this) and Quinqui; a three-movie collection of his work, will only drive that point further home… not unlike a hypodermic needle straight to the ol’ hairy beanbag!
Comprised of a trio of juvenile delinquent crime thrillers, Navajeros, El Pico & El Pico 2 to put a name to ‘em, these flicks are gritty, street-level, feel bad flicks through and through!
Navajeros (1980) concerns José Manuel Gomez Perales or “El Jaro” ( José Luis Manzano) as he’s known among friends; a fifteen year-old criminal with a record a mile and a fuckin’ half long. Thankfully he spends most of his free time practicing the wholesome art of stealing purses with his rough n’ tumble pals.
At night, El Jaro bangs a good ol’ prostitute named Mercedes… or as she’s known on the street; “La Mexicana” (Isela Vega) who lets him shack up with her… wait, maybe you should gather the family around before you watch the rest…
Before you can say “this shit is going to escalate”, shit escalates as El Jaro’s got a gun, and his whole world’s (about to) come undone as the level of crimes he can commit goes up a notch thanks to said pistol… not to mention the hottie with a habit he’s acquired…
Sound fun? Check out this sinister synopsis of the next film in the collection, 1983’s El Pico:
Paco (a returning José Luis Manzano) and Urko (Javier Garcia) are two teenage junkies hailing from disparate backgrounds when it comes to political affiliation. Seems like a sedate existence considering de la Iglesia’s oeuvre… oh wait, here it comes…
The boys both have their jollies fucking a local prostitute who hooks them up with the local drug dealer so that they can be part of that hoary ol’ chestnut, the drug dealers pyramid scheme! Before long Paco is stealing his mother’s ovarian cancer meds to scratch that opiate itch he’s acquired. Family drama and crippling addiction ensue!
Well, that was uplifting, eh? Well buckle up, ‘cuz the scenario continues in the creatively named El Pico 2 (1984):
Paco (José Luis Manzano once again) is back baby… and his ass is in jail… a rather nasty one at that. Our hero is down to do what it takes to survive both inside and out of the pokey and he resorts to all manner of violence and scams as is the way of this lovable lil’ scamp!
Of course, Paco’s drug habit is back with an unholy vengeance, so expect a few bumps n’ scrapes there for sure, as the stone-cold grip of addiction turns his life into a zombie-like existence where isolation rules the day as his friends are dead and his family has grown distant.
I’m sure you have guessed; these flicks are as grimy as they come and feature characters that you’d be hard-pressed to want to spend a single minute of time with… yet the believable performance of José Luis Manzano (due in part to the fact that this cat actually lived the lifestyle he portrayed on the silver screen) keeps you engaged no matter how difficult the images on screen may be… and believe you me, they get difficult.
After experiencing these films, it’s not hard to see how Manzano and the other actual criminals featured therein became full on teenage heartthrobs to the bad boy lovin’ Latin American young ladies of the time.
Given the outcome of some of these “actors”, not to mention the fate of the director himself (who had similar proclivities to his young stars), the whole thing seems unreasonably irresponsible on the surface, but I think to label these nasty lil’ gems as such would be disingenuous… yes these pictures glorify “the life” to an extent, but why on earth would anyone watching these films want to suffer some of the punishment that Manzano seems near ludicrous… these films illustrate that while somewhat anti-hero glamour, these are cautionary tales through and through.
Speaking of “punishment”, ol’ Severin have included a few bonus features here to delay your time in de la Iglesia’s playhouse which include: interviews with actor José Sacristán and Latin juvenile delinquent cinema scholars Mery Cuesta and Tom Whittaker, a panel discussion featuring scholars Alejandro Melero and Paul Julian Smith, and trailers for El Pico and El Pico 2.
Unpleasant and irresistible in equal measure, the juvenile delinquent pictures of Eloy de la Iglesia are not to be missed by lovers of gritty exploitation… and this collection makes for an excellent place to do just that!!
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