Bacurau (aka Nighthawk) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Directors Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho take aim at grindhouse grit with Brazillian bullets. On the surface, Bacurau may sound like the familiar tale of one town banding together to beat back on a murderous band with intimidating size and brutality. But there’s far more present within a film that mashes so many genres and tones into a pleasing casserole of culture, politics, morality, and extra-juicy violence most bloody.
Bacurau exists as a small village in the dusty Brazillian wilderness. Though there is the tech of computers for education and a giant screen mounted to a truck for entertainment, the town is quaint and rich with culture. We arrive in town just as one of the matriarchs of the town has passed and a funeral is underway. They bury the dead with great sadness but also celebration and joy for the life they enjoyed with such a woman. Even the bitter doctor of the village soon recants her harsh words when realizing the importance of her people, despite most of her job involving offering beds to the kicked-out husbands and easy advice for the hungover.
But then strange happenings start occurring around the town. The phone signal drops out. Horses from neighboring farms are running wild. The town itself can’t be found on any satellite map. There are even UFOs seen within the skies. Once some unorthodox tourists stroll into town and now there are some murders abound. What could be causing all this chaos?
It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that this may have something to do with a corrupt politician who occasionally drives into town. He refuses to take down a dam that denies them water and tries to excuse away his actions by dumping off tattered books and expired food, believing he’ll be seen as more benevolent. We, as the audience, learn quickly, however, that all of this is being orchestrated by a band of mercenaries. Really, really bad mercenaries. The kind that thinks little of killing innocents and have sex right on the scene just to get off on the thrill. They’re mostly white people from out of the country and think nothing of gunning down natives who they work alongside. They overreact, over-kill, and take overt pleasure in their job to gross degrees that there’s little empathy for these antagonists. This is especially true when one of them kills a kid, trying to excuse it by accident, and the one voice in the group who finds an issue with such a kill is threatened violently.
The film consistently tries to surprise at every turn for how it portrays Bacurau, it’s people and their enemies. The town has many traditions but also a frankness to their desires. Sex seems to come almost on demand for most of them and it’s so frequent throughout the village that adults attempt to distract children with music while audible lovemaking occurs. Scenes that are just too surreal to describe crowd the screen, echoing everything from outlandish 1980s dystopia to Alejandro Jodorowsky levels of weird. When the townsfolk finally start fighting back in the gory third act, there’s something so wickedly wild about the first killers being a couple completely in the nude wielding shotguns. There are also drugs involved just in case there wasn’t enough craziness going on within this place.
Bacurau kept me guessing with every scene. Brilliantly balancing tongue-in-cheek humor with over-the-top grit is a potent mix, giving off sublime sensations with all its somber contemplations on living and it’s overblown kills of blown-off craniums and decapitated heads. It’s rare to see a film this uniquely unpredictable and all the more refreshing that it has an angry message coursing through its vivid veins of excitement.