Amores Perros, the title of this ambitious two and a half hour Mexican crime drama from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, can be loosely translated as “Love’s a Bitch.” The film includes a lot of dogs, so the title is presumably a double entendre that alludes to “dog” or “bitch” in that sense as well.
This movie is often compared in style to the work of Quentin Tarantino, but that’s not a connection I would have made, at least not in terms of something like Pulp Fiction. I think of Tarantino as campy, satirical, clever with dialogue, and arguably annoyingly cutesy and pretentious. Amores Perros strikes me as much more straightforward, heavy stuff. Maybe a little closer to Reservoir Dogs, but even that’s a stretch.
Amores Perros is structured as three, minimally overlapping, stories. The first has to do with two brothers (Gael Garcia Bernal and Marco Perez) fighting over the same woman (Vanessa Bauche), and fighting over the profits won by their dog Cofi through dog fights. The second is about a model (Goya Toledo) whose life and career are devastated when her leg is shattered in a car accident. The third is about a former guerrilla (Emilio Echevarria) who now wanders around town looking as lost and scraggly as a homeless person, but who picks up cash doing jobs–up to and including murdering people–for local criminals.
The first of the three stories drew me in the most; I felt myself clearly fading and losing interest in the other two. I’m not sure if the first one is really the best, or if it was just the fatigue factor of two and a half hours of subtitles and keeping track of multiple plots.
I appreciate the gritty realism of the film, the portrait of miserable and dangerous lives those of us in tolerable life circumstances should be thankful we need not experience for real.
The characters are fairly well drawn and interesting to follow. Certainly the film doesn’t have the feel of a conventional American violent movie, where the bulk of the characters are empty and just serve the purpose of being where they need to be in the story to generate the exciting gun battles and car chases and such. But on the other hand, none of the characters stood out to me in a big way; none of them are particularly likable and caused me to root for them.
Given the descriptions I read in advance, I was expecting there to be even more violence, and for it to be more graphic. Certainly there’s violence in the movie, and it’s disturbing to a degree (some viewers will especially struggle with the dog fighting scenes), but the violence didn’t stand out to me in quantity nor in intensity and effectiveness compared to plenty of other movies, mainstream and non-mainstream.
I had the sense all along that I was watching a well-made, intelligent movie. I’m not surprised it has gotten as much praise as it has from reviewers. But on the other hand, subjectively it just didn’t hit me all that hard or hold my interest all that well.