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Miss Bala: movie review

Gerard Naranjo's film about the Mexican drug trade seems to be only an art-house exploitation film.

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Stephanie Sigman (r.) stars as Laura, a former beauty pageant contestant who gets caught in the crossfire of the Mexican drug wars.

Eniac Mart’nez Ulloa/Fox International Productions/AP

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Gerard Naranjo, the acclaimed young director and co-writer of the low-budget independent film “Miss Bala,” has a flair for freestyle action that should serve him well in Hollywood – if that’s where he wants to go.

Alas, he’s more than halfway there already. “Miss Bala” has been praised on the festival circuit for being a gritty look at the Mexican drug trade but too often it seemed like a bargain-bin “Scarface” to me.

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Stephanie Sigman plays Laura, a young beauty in the running for the title of Miss Baja California before corrupt cops and drug thugs commandeer her life and her existence becomes increasingly nightmarish.

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Some of the shootouts are effective and Naranjo sustains an atmosphere of floating dread but it’s essentially an exploitation film, art-house-style. Grade: B- (Rated R for language, some brutal violence, and sexuality.)


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