Lucha Mexico, 2016.
Directed by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz.
Starring Shocker, Blue Demon Jr, Jon Strongman, El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo, Fabian “El Gitano”, Kemonito, Faby Apache, Sexy Star, Damian 666.
A look inside the fantastical and violent world of professional wrestling in Mexico, where lucha libre is an enormous part of the national culture. Via the stars of top company CMLL, we explore the thrills and struggles of being an in-ring performer.
It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in just a few decades. If you go back a generation or so, professional wrestlers were staunch in their commitment to preserving kayfabe – the portrayal of events within the industry as legitimate, unscripted competition. Now, though, we have documentaries like Lucha Mexico, in which performers talk openly about the construction of their characters, the way they interact in the ring and how they manipulate the crowd to either cheer and applaud them or boo mercilessly whilst chucking drinks in their direction.
Unfortunately, Lucha Mexico sits as one of the lesser wrestling documentaries. Given the level of insider knowledge that fans of the industry now have, a documentary needs to delve deeply into the subject in order to give the devotees something that they’ve never seen before. For those who don’t know their rudos from their técnicos and can’t tell the difference between a suplex and a powerslam, this might be an interesting peek behind the curtain, but it’s rather routine for the hardcore enthusiast.
The film focuses on a variety of performers, predominantly working for CMLL which, along with AAA, is one of the biggest promotions in Mexico. We meet veterans like Shocker and Blue Demon Jr, committed to preserving the heritage of lucha libre, and younger performers like the deathmatch specialists who make up the group Los Perros del Mal. In flipping rapidly from character to character, filmmakers Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz fail to really explore the depths of any of them as people. We spend more time looking at how much they can lift than we do at what makes them tick.
Lucha Mexico only really discovers its purpose when it focuses on the deaths of two of the performers it features. The death of Fabian El Gitano in 2011 is briefly explored, but the film really excels in its sensitive and poignant look at the passing of El Hijo del Perro Aguayo, who died as a result of a freak accident in the ring last year. Seeing the performers react to the loss of their friends and colleagues is genuinely saddening and is the only time the film really comes close to exploring the subject.
It’s a shame that Lucha Mexico is so free of ideas given the rich seam of material it has at its fingertips. The prominence of lucha libre and its heritage in Mexican culture is fascinating but, beyond numerous shots of market stalls covered in ornate replica masks, there’s very little to communicate that to the audience. This is a film that’s all surface, but there’s far more to explore behind the curtain.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about Boris Johnson.