Documentary

Lucha Mexico (2016)

Comments Off on Lucha Mexico (2016) 23 November 2016

luchamexico

Studio: Kino

Theatrical Release: July 15, 2016 (limited)

DVD Release: November 1, 2016

Director(s): Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz

Not Rated

Review by Vidal Granandos

Lucha Mexico is a stellar documentary that takes you behind the masks and into the lives of some of the biggest wrestling stars in Mexico.

I was very excited to watch this movie since I used to be a big wrestling fan growing up. Some of my favorite childhood memories were watching the superstars of the WWF on TV such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and my favorite wrestler Rey Mysterio. Being a Mexican-American I also wanted to learn more about lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) and its importance to Mexican culture. When I traveled to Mexico to visit relatives, I was fortunate enough to experience lucha libre events with my cousins. It is very different than its American counterpart due to its emphasis on more acrobatic aerial moves and crowd interactions. During intermission, kids can play and take photos in the ring. During matches, kids can go to ringside and ask for autographs. Wrestlers interact with the crowd by sitting next to audience members to get a breather or a kiss from a lucky lady. They also ask for weapons or get into heated arguments with fans. This is why it’s so enjoyable for people. For kids, its superheroes versus villains. For adults, it’s a place to have a beer and be part of an interactive television show.

If you have never been able to experience lucha libre first hand, Lucha Mexico does a great job conveying this premise. Lucha Mexico begins with highlights of a wrestling match. Here we see the spectacle as the crowd does. There is no voiceover narration or background music. Instead directors Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz use the roaring crowd as music. The narration is the story being told in the ring. Using multiple camera angles we see the crowds reactions and wrestlers performing moves during the match. We live the match as they do. We are in awe, watching these men fly in the air. We feel the smacks as bodies hit the mat to finally rejoicing when the good guy is victorious. Since the audio is dialed in with the crowd and nothing else distracting the audience, one is able to appreciate each moment as a spectator in the arena.

After the first match, Lucha Mexico slowly introduces the wrestlers. Shocker is the main luchador who is followed throughout the film. He is one of biggest names in Mexico. I actually saw him wrestle in Mexico years ago. Though getting older in age, Shocker can still draw huge crowds. His tag team partner in the movie is Jon “Strongman” Anderson, who is an American professional body builder and part time wrestler. Both Shocker and Anderson are fluent English speakers so one won’t be reading subtitles the entire time. However there will be some need to read subtitles as the other luchadors featured are native Spanish speakers. It is about Mexican wrestling after all. The other luchadors are second and third generation superstars as well as legends such as Blue Demon Jr., Ultimo Guerrero, Damian 666, Hijo Del Perro Aguayo and many others.

After the introduction match in the beginning, we travel with Shocker and Strongman from show to show. We see how they begin their day with vigorous workouts and then proceeding to take part in photo shoots and press conferences with media to promote an event. Though Strongman doesn’t speak Spanish, he still cuts promos trash talking his foes while his buddy Shocker translates. Even though people can’t understand him, they still love and respect him for his in-ring-work and massive physique. It’s interesting to see cultural differences as this: where in America we expect people to speak English if they have hopes of becoming famous, where in Mexico you can still be a star even without learning Spanish. They finally head to the arena and prepare for their main event bout. Again this is where the directors give viewers a highlight reel of the match.

Slowly but surely, Lucha Mexico spreads out to hear stories from various wrestlers. The audience learns why they wanted to become wrestlers, what the masks and sport means to them, female wrestlers being as popular as the men, how demanding training schools are, injuries, life on the road etc. Anything and everything is included. There are too many luchadors to list each segment but here are some key moments:

Blue Demon Jr. is someone who is following in his father’s footsteps. Blue Demon Sr. was a big star in the 1970’s, even starring in a couple of his own films. Though he never wanted to become a wrestler when he was younger, Blue Demon Jr. understood what his father’s persona and legacy meant to people so he took on the mask in hopes to living up to the his father’s name.

Another star the film makers focus on is Hijo Del Perro Aguayo. Aguayo has a smaller wrestling promotion Perro del Mal (meaning Dogs of Evil), which was known for it’s bad guy attitude and more violent wrestling style. Basically it’s the Mexican version of the NWO and ECW combine. Tragically on March 21, 2015, Perro Aguayo died in the ring from cervical spine trauma after being dropkicked by Rey Mysterio. He was 35 years old. Lucha Mexico replays the tragic incident as close friends of Aguayo reflect on the incident as well as his legacy to the sport.

While the movie does a great job of making these super heroes seem human, it also keeps to a script with luchador Fabian El Gitano storyline that was taking place at the time. Masks are very important in lucha libre. When a wrestlers mask is taken off or lost in a match it is seen as a disgrace. In a mask vs. mask cage match, the loser must take off his mask forever revealing their true identity. Though Fabian loses the match, he wrestles a couple more events without his mask. Afterward he supposedly goes into a depression. Shocker and Strongman claim they’re worried about him since the match took place. I understand that masks are important because it really does give protection and privacy to their identity. That way they can live a normal life outside of wrestling. Also the mask is a direct representation of their character. Once the mask is gone, their character/ product is gone. Therefore it can be difficult for some wrestlers to keep a fan base or be marketable after losing their mask. However this segment comes off a little too cheesy. To have Shocker and Strongman go along with the idea that Fabian has lost hope to wrestle seems a bit silly compared to the rest of the documentary. But I guess I have to give them credit for staying in character.

Lucha Mexico’s soundtrack is very solid. I was worried it was just going to be stereotypical mariachi music playing the entire time. Fortunately the music department’s respect of the culture shines through with its music selection. Lucha Mexico has a nice variety of Latin music styles playing throughout the film.

If you are still craving more knowledge and stories of lucha libre don’t worry because there is over an hour of bonus features! There are more interviews with wrestlers like Mr. Aguila (Essa Rios in WWF), Octagoncito, Victor Martinez, Maximo vs Taichi and much more. The amount of bonus material included is enough for it to be a sequel, which is why it’s dubbed Lucha Mexico Round 2.

Overall Lucha Mexico is a great documentary. If you are a diehard wrestling fan or have ever enjoyed watching the product then this is a must have item. Even for those who think wrestling is stupid, this is such a well-done documentary that it deserves to be viewed by everyone. Yes, they are masked muscle men. Yes, it can be cheesy to watch at times. Yes, the matches are predetermined but that doesn’t mean it’s fake. The people involved take their craft very seriously. They train hard everyday while living an unbalanced schedule. These men and women sacrifice time with their families to go out and entertain fans. The big name athletes travel across the country to the biggest arenas filled with hundreds of people, to small town ranches with about a hundred people. Some have fame with a close unit of friends. Others live lonely lives. Yet they all commit to it with passion. After watching Lucha Mexico, people will walk away with a new appreciation for the art.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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