Miss Bala

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A young Mexican suburbanite (Stephanie Sigman) travels to big, bad Baja to compete in a beauty contest. When a gang of narco-thugs show up, she's in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a pawn in their DEA-payback game. Gerardo Naranjo's latest is a full 180-degree turn from his breezy I'm Gonna Explode; the man knows exactly how to use Steadicam shots and subjective points of view for maximum tension. He also thinks he's making a profound statement about Mexico's drug war. Nice try: As genuinely nail-biting as this thriller is, a cutting commentary on social ills it is not. You're better off just enjoying the rush.—DF

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New York Film Festival 2011

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