Perdita Durango

Spain/Mexico/USA 1997

Reviewed by José Arroyo


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Perdita Durango is a prostitute whose sister and nephews were brutally murdered by her brother-in-law before he killed himself. Romeo Dolorosa is a drug dealer and witch doctor who has just conned his partner Shorty out of his share of a bank robbery. Perdita and Romeo meet at the Mexican-American border and become lovers and partners-in-crime. At his cousin Reggie's urging, Romeo agrees to deliver a cargo of foetuses to Las Vegas for gangland boss Marcello Santos. On a whim, Perdita and Romeo kidnap Duane and Estelle, a young Wasp couple. Romeo rapes Estelle while Perdita has sex with the more willing Duane. Estelle is chosen to be the human sacrifice at one of Romeo's occult ceremonies. However, her life is spared when Shorty and a gang of armed thugs interrupt the event. Romeo kills Shorty but in the process Romeo's magic protective necklaces are removed.

The whole gang escape and go to take delivery of the foetuses. On the way, Romeo settles a debt with a nightclub owner who has been strong-arming his grandmother. Before Romeo kills him, he discovers his cousin Reggie will double-cross him. When Romeo and the rest arrive to take possession of the foetuses, they are ambushed by cops but escape. Romeo leaves Perdita, Duane and Estelle with a friend while he goes to deliver the cargo to his cousin. Estelle tells Perdita that it's a double-cross. Perdita frees Duane and Estelle and chases after Romeo. After confronting his cousin Reggie, Romeo turns his back on him and lets himself be shot. Perdita arrives and kills Reggie. While the cops try to figure out what's happened, Perdita tearfully wanders through Las Vegas.


Perdita Durango is being marketed as a sequel to Wild at Heart, a claim neither exact nor wise. It is true that both films are based on books by Barry Gifford, and more or less share a geographical setting and a rather gothic take on socio-sexual relations. It is also true that some of the less central characters in Wild at Heart reappear in the new film. The relatively minor character of the double-crossing whore played by Isabella Rossellini in Wild, for instance, has been turned into a starring role for Rosie Perez here. Yet none of this quite adds up to a sequel. Calling it such is unfortunate since Perdita Durango doesn't measure up to Lynch's film: Perdita's cheapjack brutalism makes one nostalgic for Wild at Heart's formal elegance, striking imagery, romantic eroticism and compellingly unsettling violence.

Perdita seems misjudged on various levels. The narrative, for instance, is riddled with flashbacks. This doesn't make the story difficult to follow, but the reliance on this narrative device is often irritating both because the flashbacks are used unnecessarily (the bank robbery could have been structured chronologically) and because some of the past events are uninteresting (Romeo as a soldier reading during a battle). All these flashbacks and dream-sequences do is chop up the narrative, adding up to less than the sum of their parts.

Just as damaging is the casting of Rosie Perez as Perdita Durango. The film includes enough references to Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner to indicate that Perdita and Romeo are meant to be somewhat like them: Romeo (played by Javier Bardem) identifies so strongly with the charming rogue Burt Lancaster played in Vera Cruz (1954) that the scene where he dies morphs into the end of Vera Cruz. Bardem as Burt is easier to swallow than Perez as Gardner. Perdita's dream of being eaten by a leopard is intended to indicate her longing for her ideal complementary opposite. If Romeo is meant to be half-jaguar, she is leopard-like: a feline beauty; mysterious, powerful, graceful and deadly, like, say, Gardner's Kitty in The Killers (1946, which co-starred Lancaster). But while Perez has a particular gift for comedy and can be wonderful in the right roles (as in White Men Can't Jump), she's more alley than jungle cat and no Ava Gardner. The only mystery is why Romeo puts up with her pushy screeching throughout the film.

Álex de la Iglesia is a specialist in the brutal black humour Perdita Durango aims for. His debut Acción mutante was an attempt at live-action manga film as it pushed graphic representations of sex and violence to the point of comic disbelief, managing to be shocking and funny. Perhaps because Acción mutante seemed to think its every infraction of good taste was hilarious, it gained a fervent following among adolescent boys. The Day of the Beast is much more successful. The story of a priest who turns to the devil in order to prevent the coming of the anti-Christ, it's a biting satire on religion, the cult of the occult, tabloid television and contemporary Spanish society - all things de la Iglesia understands.

The problem with Perdita Durango is that nobody in this Spanish-Mexican production knows enough about the American culture (as embodied in the characters of Duane and Estelle) the film is meant to be ridiculing to tease out the subtleties and nuances that would transform mere crudity into social satire, shock and laughter. Even if Álex de la Iglesia is one of the most interesting young directors working today, Perdita Durango is not the film that will convince anyone of this fact.


Andrés Vicente Gómez
Barry Gifford
Jorge GuerricaechevarrÍa
David Trueba
Álex de la Iglesia
Based on the book "59° and Raining The Story of Perdita Durango" by
Barry Gifford
Director of Photography
Flavio Mtnz. Labiano
Teresa Font
Production Designers
José Luis Arrizabálaga
Simon Boswell
©Sogetel S.A./Lolafilms S.A./Mirador S.A. de C.V.
Production Companies
An Andrés Vicente Gómez production for Sogetel/Lolafilms/ Mirador S.A. de C.V. in association with Canal + (Spain)/Sogepaq S.A./IMCINE (Mexico)
A Sogetel S.A./Lolafilms S.A./Mirador S.A. de C.V./Occidental Media Corp co-production
Executive Producers
Fernando Bovaira
Miguel Necoechea
Pablo Barbachano
Max Rosenberg
Production Associate/Supervisor
Marco Gómez
Production Co-ordinators
Lilí González
Donna Nitti
International Co-ordinator
Douglas Wilson
Production Manager
José Luis Escolar
Unit Production Managers
Sandra Solares
Anne McCaffrey
Location Managers
Laura Alemán
Tod Swindell
Las Vegas:
Maggie Mancuso
Assistant Directors
José Luis Escolar
Charlie Lázaro
Adrian Grunberg
Nela Fernández
Mark Brooks
Script Supervisors
Beatriz Anda
Liz Graham
Las Vegas:
Rhonda Hyde
Joy Dickson
Nicole Arbusto
Claudia Becker
Camera/Steadicam Operator
Carlos Cabecerán
Special Visual Effects
L2 Entertainment
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Jim Wheelock
Visual Effects Producer:
Jini Dayaneni
Visual Effects Co-ordinator:
Shannon Preece
Digital Supervisor:
Tim Sassoon
Digital Artists:
April Walker
Anthony Longman
Film Scanning/Recording
Special Effects
Dan Lester
Jerry King
Marcelino Pacheco Guzmán
Marcelino Pacheco García
Joe Self
Ron Grunden
Jack Burns
Graphic Design
Oscar Mariné
Art Directors
Ana Solares
Salvador Parra
Andrew Bernard
Set Decorators
Claudio Contreras 'Pache'
Helen Britten
Costume Designers
María Estela Fernández
Glenn Ralston
Wardrobe Supervisors
Jaime Ortíz
Mark West-Wright
Wardrobe Co-ordinator
Ruth Zermeño
Make-up Supervision
José Quetglas
Mercedes Guillot
Hair Stylist
Josefina Mendoza
'Perdita Durango' Titles
Juan Tomicic
Daiquiri Digital Features
Optical Effects
Story Film/Pablo Nuñez
Percussion Solos
Chucho Merchán
Orchestrations/Music Director
Terry Davies
Recording/Mixing Engineer
Geoff Foster
"Love Is All Around" by Sonny Curtis; "La jaula de oro" by Enrique Franco, performed by Los Tigres del Norte; "De Sinaloa a California" by Julio César Preciado, performed by Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizárraga; "Menuet aus der Flotensonate D-dur BMW 1033" by Johann Sebastian Bach; "Camel Walk", "Soul City" by Richard Miller, performed by Southern Culture On the Skids; "Spanish Flea" by Julius Wechter, performed by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass; "El cartel de a kilo", "El puño de polvo" by Mario Quintero Lara, performed by Los Tucanes de Tijuana; "Little Girl" performed by Electric Playboys; "Rumberito" by/performed by La Gloria de Roberto Contreras; "Pazzo Kids" by R. Rhodes; "I Walk the Line" by/performed by Johnny Cash; "Vera Cruz" by Hugo Friedhofer, Sammy Cahn; "Something for Nothing" by Glen Matlock, O'Brien, performed by Glen Matlock; "I'm Lonely"
Direct Sound
Salvador de la Fuente
Juan Carlos Prieto
Ray Gillon
Manuel Cora
Dialogue Recordist
Mario López
Sound Editor
Santiago Thévenet
Sound Effects
Jorge Rodríguez Inclán
Sound Effects Recordist
Jorge Lerner
Sound Special Effects
Olivier Tarney
G. Minor
Sound Library
Pilar de la Vega
José Miguel Martinez
Stunt Co-ordinators
Julian Bucio
David Sanders
Additional Dialogue Supervisor
Lisa Button
Animals R Us
Film Extracts
Urotsukidoji II/Legend of the Demon Womb (1991)
Vera Cruz (1954)
Rosie Perez
Perdita Durango
Javier Bardem
Romeo Dolorosa
Harley Cross
Aimee Graham
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Don Stroud
Marcello 'Mad Eyes' Santos
Demián Bichir
Santiago Segura
Shorty Dee
Carlos Bardem
Reggie San Pedro
Alex Cox
Agent Doyle
James Gandolfini
Special Agent Woody Dumas
Harry Porter
Sheriff Tyrone 'Rip' Ford
Carlos Arau
Miguel Galván
Regina Orozco
Roger Cudney
Erika Carlson
Glory Ann
William G. Stamper
Charly Park
Gabriel Berthier
Cesar Rodríguez
Dede Peralta
David Villalpando
Forrie Smith
Paco Pharrez
Nicky 'Bigfoot'
Wil 'Nahkohe' Strickland
Provino Momo, 'The Fist'
Josefina Echanove
Romeo's grandmother
Miguel Iglesias
Danny Mestiza
Dewey Kellog
Marco Bacuzzi
Abel Woolrich
old man in cemetery
James Gooden
Manny Flynn
Emily Blanton
airport waitress
Maya Zapata
Vadira Zapata
Mexican girls
Andaluz Russel
Salvador Gómez
Mexican border guard
Kenny Jacobs
Pam Risner
Chely Godinez
Katie Barbieri
Norman Stone
Old Man 'Toques'
Gerardo Zepeda 'Chiquilín'
'La Florida' barman
Lazaro Patterson
Babalawo priest
Jessie Faller
bank teller
Adelina Sinohui
beautiful woman
Roberto López
'Susie Street' man
Paul Dapra
Craig Vincent
Steve Kennedy
Metrodome Distribution Ltd
11,176 feet
124 minutes 11 seconds (53 seconds cut)
Dolby digital
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011