Parasite meets The Purge in this shallow Mexican drama from Michel Franco
Mexico is a country wracked by violence and corruption. There were 17,439 murders in the first half of 2020, a year in which Mexico was ranked 130th in the corruption index, sharing its position with Guinea, Laos, the Maldives, Mali, Myanmar and Togo. Meanwhile, the country has an OECD income inequality rating of 0.42, one of the worst in the world. All of this comes to a head in New Order, director Michel Franco’s vision of his nation in a free fall of riots and murder.
We see flashes of the carnage – dead bodies on the street, rioters throwing green paint – as a wedding party kicks off in an expensive city residence guarded by walls and a security detail. It is a chic compound far removed from the nihilism on the streets, yet we feel it encroaching with palpable menace.
A brief narrative unfolds as the guests indulge with drink, drugs and boastful financial chatter. Rolando (Eligio Melendez), a former staff member of the family, arrives at their door pleading for 200,000 pesos to pay for his wife’s emergency heart surgery. He is met with impatience and even outright disdain, yet he finds empathy in Marianne (Naian Gonzalez Norvind), who makes it her mission to secure the funds. However, this is jeopardised when rioters scale the compound’s walls, beating and shooting their way through the house in search of valuables.
What follows is about 60 minutes of sadism. None of it has the outrageous gore and splatter of Possessor, but it is nasty and visceral all the same. Franco’s film has a stark authenticity to it and there is a crisp yet muted sheen to the grading of Yves Cape’s cinematography, yet there is little to be digested beyond its absorbing realism and merciless violence.
Its scenario is too extreme to reflect Mexico’s problems. This is a vision where rioters are shot en masse, with troops casually finishing them off like some Medieval pikeman. Even if Franco’s vision was subtler, there would have to be far more depth to the narrative and characters for there to be any commentary or satire.
Where Parasite had wit and nuance, New Order just has gunshots and screaming. It absolutely convinces us of Mexico’s capacity for violence but it does not explore its characters or the country’s issues.
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