Sunday, 11 July 2010

Valentín Day ... Trujillo Style

Ratas De La Ciudad
aka City Rats
(1986/Mexico)

‘‘How much do I owe you for stealing all my money !?’’



The night belongs to the City Rats, a rag tag gang of children hungry to survive and willing to kill in order to feed themselves. Street kids organised into a force that can easily overpower those straying from the crowds into the darker recesses of a city plagued by baby faced rats, with teeth and nails as ferociously adept as their vermin counterparts. Switchblades and metal bars are their claws, applied with lethal deftness upon their adult victims. Selecting their prey and cleverly picking off wayward adults, often in brutal and bloody fashion !. They refer to their victims as Customers, and payment is exacted in cold, calculated violence.

Family man Pedro arrives in town by communal bus with his young son. Valentin Trujillo is Pedro, a physical education teacher looking for a job to help him and his son lay down roots for a regular way of life. Tragedy soon strikes as a day at a fun park sees Pedro helpless but to be just a witness to his son being mown down by a runaway car. The vehicle is driven by a drink driver, who careens into the young boy and crushes his leg under wheel. The occupant of the car is a well known special street cop, with authority and powers above the regular police. An untouchable who walks away blameless and guiltless for his callous actions. Pedro seeks justice and strikes out at the police officer, only to have the full force of the twisted law thrown at him. He soon finds himself behind bars and is beaten by the offending officer for his righteous indiscretion against tyranny. In a world of hurt, with a bent lawyer taking him for every last meagre dollar that he has, Pedro is imprisoned with a sentence of eight months slapped upon him. With no money to pay towards his sons medical care junior Pedro is lost in the system and finds himself wandering the streets. Crippled in one leg and wearing a calliper to aid in walking the boy is befriended by one of the street urchins.
Pedro must find a way to earn money in order to buy himself out of detention, but soon discovers that just surviving will cost him more than he reckoned on. He forms a friendship with a fellow inmate who just so happens to be an honest cop, fallen fowl of the corrupt system and doing time himself. Carlos is a good man in a bad deal and the inmates want him dead, likely with a price on his head from those outside of the confines of the prison walls. Pedro steps in to help Carlos fight his way out of a violent situation, one that ends in a bloody pulp for those who dared to assault Carlos when unawares. Carlos takes Pedro under his wing and toughens him up, teaching him the ways of the law as he interprets it and bulking him up to fend for himself.

The corrupt system keeps Pedro incarcerated for five long years, all the while his son believes that his father has abandoned him and has become an integral part of the City Rats. An angry young man, forced to fend for himself and forge a beneficial friendship with the street gang. An inner anger keeps him alive, one shared by his missing father Pedro for altogether different reasons other than the binding one of survival !.
Released from prison Pedro is met on the outside by the earlier released Carlos. Their bond of friendship transgresses their common bond within the confines of the state rehabilitation facility, and Carlos offers Pedro the opportunity to join him as a special law enforcement officer. Before he accepts his friends invitation Pedro has the first of two personal vendettas to follow up. He pays a visit to his slovenly lawyer and unleashes his now highly trained fists upon him, pummelling the fat accumulated from the feasting off the poor. Beating him within an inch of his life Carlos points out to him that he now has a life changing decision to make, leave the repugnant legal leech to send him back inside or finish the job, and walk away using the same legal rights of passage to protect him that he has thus far fallen foul of. In a moment of pure politically incorrect goodness Pedro enacts what any righteous man pushed to the very edge would like to do when unrestrained, he chooses to leave a life of society servitude behind and take control of his own destiny. Carlos gives him a helping hand and the push that the lawyer needs to seal the deal. In a moment of jaw dropping, eye popping, viewer stunned disbelief Carlos throws the bloated lawyer out of his multi storey high rise window. He hit’s the street below and is instantaneously killed, no closing speech and the only jury interested look down upon him from above, verdict Guilty !.

Carlos convinces his boss that Pedro is qualified to join him in the street force and soon Trujillo is stepping up to the plate once more as the Mexican Charles Bronson, serving up hard knuckled justice backed up by a side arm who’s bullets know their destination from the moment they leave the chamber. What Pedro does not expect is to come face to face with the cop who crippled his son in his own force. Carlos has to keep the two warring men apart, but Pedro has a score to settle.
Using his new found position as a street cop Pedro uses every spare moment he has to seek out his son. With an old picture and street savvy he relentlessly pieces together every item of information, no matter how small, to formulate what has happened over the last five years and is hopeful that somewhere his son is still within the city.
The movie jumps about quite a bit and throws up some insane Action completely out of the blue, but with very welcome absurdity nonetheless. A terrorist attack upon a residential mansion calls for Carlos and Pedro to don the anti terrorist gear and throw themselves into the heart of the gun siege !. A blistering assault upon the property follows as the two hard hitting honchos strike a blow against terrorism on a grand scale. Grenades explode all around as helicopters hover overhead, witnessing the blood bath of gory gun battle play out below. It’s all done with moments in glorious slow motion kill the terrorist mode, with a salacious disregard to read ‘em their rights first !. A big, bold, ballistic blast plays out in true old school Eighties Action, and the devastation left in our guys wake is like a tornado freed from a microwave. City Rats is a Mexican magnum primed to blow its audience away, and it does it magnificently.
The cops world of course collides with the City Rats, and Pedro gets an opportunity to be reunited with his estranged son, but there are other forces at play and this is far from being anything near a happy Hollywood ending. The budget may be tight but the production is as bold as brass and when cutting to the Action it’s the ‘scythe’ that matters, and without question City Rats is El Gigante.


Movie Rating: 7/10
Review Paul Cooke / Source PAL VHS
City Rats (1986)
Director Valentín Trujillo
With Valentín Trujillo,
Rodolfo de Anda, Angelica Chain,
Roberto Guzman & Isaura Espinoza

3 comments:

  1. Hey Paul!
    The Spanish language (non subbed) US DVD was mentioned on Dvdmaniacs recently but nobody mentioned that there's actually an English dubbed VHS! Cool! Do you know if it's uncut? And is it rare?

    ReplyDelete