With Savages, a movie about a pair of pot growers and their shared girlfriend, who gets herself kidnapped by goons attached to queenpin Salma Hayek, Oliver Stone’s become the latest director to cast Mexican drug cartels as the villains in a flashy action movie:
Navy SEALs movie Act of Valor portrayed a tunnel system run by Mexican cartel leaders as a valuable aid to al Qaeda. Tony Scott’s working on Narco Sub, a movie about the submersibles the cartels used in smuggling operations. Breaking Bad‘s most recent season came up with a novel, moving, bloody twist on a cartel story, but it relied heavily on the visuals of sparkling pools, heavy gold jewelry, hot girls and hotter cars to set the scene. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to come up with a novel movie villain, or wanting to tap into new and different current of global anxiety. But there’s something weird about the assumptions of all of these movies that the most interesting stories you could tell about the cartels involve their impact on individual Americans rather than on Mexican society. It’s almost like there are compelling stories you could tell about Mexican characters that wouldn’t overstate the impact of drugs in the United States.