Wednesday, March 18, 2015

La Guerrera Vengadora 2 (Mexico, 1991)

It was inevitable that there would be a sequel to La Guerrera Vengadora, given the first film left so many questions unanswered. Questions like, "Why simply walk down a flight of stairs when you can instead take a crotch-punishing motorcycle ride down them?" Or "How can a single woman best put to use that rocket-firing stunt cycle that she has stashed away in her spare bedroom?" You feel me, ladies.

La Guerrera Vengadora 2 basically reunites everyone who was not blown up in the first film. This of course includes its bodacious star, Rosa Gloria Chagoyan, who plays Ana Rosa, a mild mannered high school chemistry teacher by day who leads a double life as a leather-clad, motorcycle riding vigilante by night. Also returning are Ana Rosa’s constant dwarf companion, Reintegro (Rene “Tun Tun” Ruiz) and Chagoyan’s IRL husband, Rolando Fernandez, as Ana Rosa’s hotheaded police detective boyfriend, who again spends as much time vociferously blowing his top as he does blowing helicopters out of the sky with a grenade launcher. I am henceforth going to refer to this character as “Inspector Hothead”, since I have still not been able to figure out what his goddamn name is.

Closing this circle of nepotism is Rolando’s father, Raul Fernandez, in the director’s chair, here benefitting from both a surer hand and a higher budget than he had with the first film. Fernandez Sr. also co-wrote and co-produced the film with his son, which makes Rolando’s casting of himself as such a churl seem all the more self effacing. The family enterprise here, after all, is that of bolstering the image of Rosa Gloria Chagoyan as an iconic cinematic badass, which I imagine is vastly preferable to running an insurance office or a bodega.

La Guerrera Vengadora 2 notifies us by way of an opening vignette that the Ana Rosa of Vengadora 1 has since moved on from personal vendetta to being an all-around crime fighter. A masked gang stages an insanely violent bank robbery that quickly devolves into an insanely violent hostage standoff. This can only be broken by La Vengadora crashing her bike through a plate glass window and mowing down all offenders present with her cycle-mounted machine guns. Meanwhile, a wheelchair-bound mafia kingpin decides to send a message to Inspector Hothead by dispatching a knife wielding psycho to Ana Rosa’s home. Ana Rosa, however, has received warning and flees, leaving behind Sonia, a student whom she has taken in, to fall victim to the psycho’s blade.

As Sonia dies in Ana Rosa’s arms amid much throaty lamentation, the kingpin’s goons take advantage of a Benny Hill-like interlude between a busty housemaid and a horny comic relief milkman and kidnap the little daughter of the police chief (who is played by Carlos East, looking well past his suave leading man roles in Mexispy films like Cazadores de Espias and Blue Demon Destructor de Espias). Ana Rosa is soon on their trail, having found that trustiest of movie clues; a matchbox bearing the name of a nightclub. And, really, who among us does not commit a nefarious act without leaving behind a matchbox bearing the name of an establishment that is literally the hub of all of our activities? (If you were to rifle through my pockets at this very moment, you’d find one imprinted with the name “My Place”, meaning my actual place, because I never leave the house.)

This turn of events leads to a callback to one of Vengadora 1’s most memorable “branding” moments, in which Ana Rosa throws a huge fur worthy of Isabel Sarli on over a form-flaunting dress and hits da club looking like a fanfic version of Jessica Rabbit. Naturally, all of the men in attendance react as if she is the first woman they have ever laid eyes on and, before too long, a pair of the kingpin’s butch female operatives saunter up to feel her out, so to speak. This leads to Ana Rosa, in the guise of an underworld floozy, being granted access to the kingpin’s mansion, where she makes off with a file disclosing the location where the chief’s daughter is being held. The first of many motorcycle chases follows, and you can lay money on there being many sick jumps, sweet asplosions, and rad wheelies involved.

Now all that remains is for Ana Rosa to don a form-fitting black leather outfit, arm herself with a formidable looking crossbow, and, with Reintegro in tow, stage a nocturnal raid upon the mansion. (And, seriously, what is the deal with crossbows? Can somebody tell me at what pop cultural moment such an unwieldy and impractical weapon became the ultimate symbol of bad assery?) It goes without saying that the mansion comes complete with huge air ducts that make for easy egress once La Vengadora has rescued the little girl from the hands of the knife wielding maniac. That said, the perilous chase that follows makes good use of this stock setting, providing the film with what turns out to be a standout action set piece. Equally deft is the following sequence, in which Ana Rosa and the girl dodge competing bands of well-armed pursuers throughout the dank and labyrinthine interior of a ruined 19th century fortress.

I am happy to say that the makers of La Guerrera Vengadora 2 for the most part avoid the icky sexual violence that marred the first film, although they can’t resist the opportunity presented by the presence of an imperiled child to plague our minds with the thought of no small number of narrowly avoided atrocities: toddler vs. flamethrower, toddler vs. axe-wielding psychopath, toddler vs. giant rotary fan, to name a few. A moment of silence should also be taken for the dignity of wee Rene Ruiz, who is made the butt of just about every cartoonish sight gag that has ever been perpetrated in the name of lowbrow comedy, from running around with his ass on fire, to falling in a hillock of flour and having people think he’s a ghost, to engaging in a mock bullfight with a fat biker sporting horns on his head. One hopes that there is a special place in heaven for such performers.

Despite those potential hurdles (pardon the pun) to sensitive viewers, it has to be said that La Guerrera Vengadora 2 betters its predecessor in almost every conceivable way. Its action is expertly staged and virtually nonstop, benefiting from some truly outstanding stunt and pyrotechnic work. Its climax, in particular, had me surprised to find myself hooting and hollering like a good ol’ boy. In that scene, la Vengadora flees from her attackers—who are first on motorcycles, then in a helicopter—the little girl clinging to her back as she roars around on her motorcycle, raining fiery death on her pursuers with the various ordnance at her disposal. This bit ends with her making a preposterous, wire-assisted motorcycle jump across a wide ravine, her little charge holding on for dear life the whole way.

Good stuff. And recommended. Keep in mind, however, that I was very drunk while I watched this movie. You should be, too.


Unknown said...

Your review of the movie is hilarious! I can't wait to binge watch on LGV 1 and 2 this weekend. In fact, I just turned down an invitation from friends to go out dancing and drinking so that I can just get drunk at home, eat ceviche and watch these movies.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Rebecca! And I plan on watching at least one of the Lola La Trailera movies this weekend and writing about it next week. Good times.