Latino (1985)

“When the compas come, they get rid of you and your Somozan soldiers — paid in U.S. dollars.”

Latino Poster

Synopsis:
A Green Beret soldier (Robert Beltran) is sent to the Nicaraguan border to help fight against the Sandinistas — but he soon discovers that not all Nicaraguans are happy about America’s involvement with the Contra rebels.

Genres:

Review:
The primary problem with writer-director Haskell Wexler’s Latino is that the entire story is predictably telescoped ahead of time: we know from the beginning that our hunky Latino protagonist will enter the Nicaraguan conflict with the best of patriotic intentions, have his eyes opened to the horrors of American interventionist tactics, and (naturally) experience conflicted romance with the tall, sexy drink of water (Annette Cardona) he conveniently meets right away. It’s equally clear that the Sandinistas in the film — or at least their humble peasant contingency — will be presented as exclusively righteous and noble, while the Contras will be merely violence-prone jerks. Although there’s likely an enormous grain of truth to this latter sentiment, Wexler piles on his heavy-handed vignettes far too liberally — as when we watch innocent teenagers being kidnapped, tortured, bullied (“One sound, Sandinista bastard, and you’re dead”), and lied to in an attempt to convert them (unsuccessfully, of course) to the Contra-cause; meanwhile, none of the native Contras are humanized or given a chance to speak their voice, and Beltran’s American compatriots are simply piggish boors. With all that said, Wexler’s well-meaning attempt to infuse his film with a palpable air of realism is admirable: it’s refreshing to see natives cast as extras on location, and to hear an appropriate mix of Spanish and English being spoken by the characters. In addition, Beltran is sympathetic in the lead role as an “ugly American” who comes to realize the error of his country’s ways (why didn’t his career go further?), and Cardona is a fine romantic match for him. It’s too bad, then, that the strength of Wexler’s convictions prevented him from creating a more nuanced and compelling film about such an important topic in recent American history.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Beltran as Eddie
    Latino Beltran
  • An authentic look at the suffering and anger experienced by locals during a revolution
    Latino Mourning
    Latino Suffering
    Latino Anger

Must See?
No; skip this one.

Links:

One Response to “Latino (1985)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Yes, the assessment appears accurate – and while it would seem Wexler set out for a ‘balanced’ view, the result is not a particularly compelling film. Even a number of scenes revealing potential for particular dramatic power fall short. Rather a disappointment, really, as it could have been better.

    By the way, Beltran (so memorable in ‘Eating Raoul’, of course) did go on and continues with a career today, mostly in tv.

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