Cartel Land – Vigilante, Good or Evil!

Rating (3 out of 5)

A documentary from 2016 showing how lives are impacted by the drug cartels in Mexico.  While the documentary does a good job of trying to show the issues without significant bias, the movie lacks detail background on the individuals to understand their motivations.  I was intrigued, but had to research more on my own.

Plot:  The documentary follows a group of vigilantes in the Mexican state of Michoacán and group of Americans on the border in Arizona, who both are trying to defeat the Mexican cartels.

What I Liked:  I liked watching the development of the vigilante group in Michoacán from concerned citizens, to vigilantes (self-defense) and to their final form (don’t want to spoil the development).  A fascinating transformation and unfortunately a predictable transformation which demonstrates the long-term problem Mexico faces.  The film shows what citizens of Mexico endure and these scenes allow me to appreciate the United States, no matter which president we have.


There are intense scenes where Autodefensas has tracked down members of the cartel in a city and there is a shootout in progress.  The camera man ducks behind a truck in order not to be shot himself.  Filming the documentary close to the action shows the power of the cartel and the challenge for both the government and the vigilantes.

What I Didn’t Like:  The documentary followed a band of US vigilantes watching the border.  The small group appeared to be effective and a working relationship with the border patrol.  While mildly interesting to the film, the pieces about the US vigilantes were incomplete and therefore a distraction to the overall film.

We saw glimpses into how the Mexican vigilante group operated, but not all the logistics.  The recruitment method seemed chaotic and prone to issues.  So a bit more insight on how they grew from nothing to an organization the government had to address.

Also, I would have liked a little more focus on a couple of the leaders for the Autodefensas.  Knowing more about their back story and where they all started would have made for a more complete story.  Why did they become involved in the Autodefensas and later, why did they join or not join the government force?

Conclusion:  Overall the movie lacked of focus and clarity, the documentary peaked my interest in learning more about what transpired.