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Theatrical release poster by Oscar Mariné
|Directed by||Álex de la Iglesia|
|Produced by||Andrés Vicente Gómez|
|Written by||Barry Gifford|
Álex de la Iglesia
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
|Music by||Simon Boswell|
|Cinematography||Flavio Martínez Labiano|
|Edited by||Teresa Font|
Perdita Durango, released as Dance with the Devil in the United States, is a 1997 Spanish/Mexican action-crime film directed by Álex de la Iglesia, based on Barry Gifford's novel 59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango. It stars Javier Bardem as Romeo Dolorosa and co-stars Rosie Perez. It was inspired by Magdalena Solís and the Hernandez Brothers sect.
A psychotic criminal couple kidnaps a random teenage couple, and plans to rape and offer them as a human sacrifice. (This has parallels to the 1989 murder of Mark J. Kilroy by Mexican drug traffickers).
Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez) has gone to Mexico to scatter the ashes of her dead sister. There, she is picked up by bank-robbing drug dealer Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem). Dolorosa had robbed the bank to pay off his debt to loan shark Catalina (Demián Bichir). He also engages in scams in which pretends to be a Santeria priest and hacks up corpses while snorting cocaine.
Perdita devises a plan that they should capture a gringo and eat him as part of Romeo’s ceremonies. They kidnap randomly chosen geeky college student Dwayne (Harley Cross) and his girlfriend Estelle (Aimee Graham). First Perdita rapes Dwayne while Romeo rapes Estelle. They hold a ceremony to sacrifice Estelle while they force Dwayne to watch. Before the girl can be killed the sacrifice is interrupted by a gang of men led by a Shorty Dee (Santiago Segura), a betrayed former partner of Romeo.
Romeo and Perdita escape with Dwayne and Estelle still their captives. The four go to the meeting with the Santos people to pick up the truckload of fetuses. Unfortunately, the hand-off is interrupted by drug enforcement agent Woody Dumas (James Gandolfini). Santos’ men are all killed. Romeo escapes and drives to Vegas with Dwayne, while Perdita follows with Estelle.
On the trip, Romeo finds out his grandmother's house was raided by some of Catalina's men as punishment for Romeo's unpaid debt. Romeo visits Catalina in a club, pretending to offer Estelle as payment. When he gets Catalina alone, Romeo kills him.
Romeo, Perdita, Dwayne and Estelle finally get to Vegas. However, Dumas has been following them all the way. Moreover, the drop has become a trap for Romeo; Santos is upset about all the deaths at the pick-up so he has hired Romeo’s cousin Reggie (Carlos Bardem) to kill Romeo.
Romeo and his one-armed ex-marine buddy Doug go to the drop, tipped off about the double-cross. Romeo leaves Perdita to watch the hostages, but Perdita's nervousness overcomes her. She lets Estelle and Dwayne go so she can check on her lover.
Reggie kills Doug and Perdita arrives just in time to see Reggie shoot Romeo in the back, killing him. Perdita shoots and kills Reggie and then flees as the cops bust in, led by Woody, intending to arrest the men but instead finding them all dead.
Alone now, Perdita walks the Las Vegas strip mourning Romeo.
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The character of Perdita Durango had appeared previously as a minor character in Wild at Heart, another of Gifford's novels. In David Lynch's film adaptation of that novel, she was played by Isabella Rossellini.
The film is at its most horrific in the scenes where Romeo engages in practices labelled santería, though in reality these have little or nothing to do with Santería as it is practised in Cuba. In one ritualistic scene, he drenches himself in blood and smothers his face in a bag of cocaine. He then hacks limbs off a corpse, tears out its heart and writhes around on the ground, channeling multitudes of demons. De La Iglesia contrasts these scenes with gallows humour. Romeo may be a vicious killer but he also loves the music of Herb Alpert. There is a scene where he and Perdita happily groove to "Spanish Flea". Gandolfini's character speaks with a weasely lisp and has the misfortune of being repeatedly hit by fast moving vehicles, not unlike a live-action Wile E. Coyote.
Perdita Durango is a curious oddity in De La Iglesia's oeuvre. It is his most overt attempt to crack the North American market (where he has only a small but dedicated following) with his first English-speaking film and a cast of recognizable actors like Rosie Pérez, James Gandolfini and Javier Bardem. This alienated his Hispanic fans who felt that he had sold out, while his penchant for graphic sex and violence scared off potential distributors and mainstream audiences in North America, sending the movie direct to video. This film is a blend of genres (crime, horror, comedy, road trip) with an eclectic cast that features his regular favourites (Santiago Segura) and colourful character actors (Screamin' Jay Hawkins).
The original Spanish version runs 10 minutes longer and features more sex and violence and ends with some characters digitally morphing into the scene finale from Vera Cruz.
The film is available in the United States on VHS/DVD in two versions: the edited 115 min. R-rated version and a 121 min. unrated version. Both of these are shorter than the Spanish version.
- Rosie Perez as Perdita Durango
- Javier Bardem as Romeo Dolorosa
- Harley Cross as Dwayne
- Aimee Graham as Estelle
- James Gandolfini as DEA Agent Willie "Woody" Dumas
- Screamin' Jay Hawkins as Adolfo
- Demián Bichir as Catalina
- Carlos Bardem as Reggie San Pedro
- Santiago Segura as Shorty Dee
- Harry Porter as Ford
- Don Stroud as Santos
- Alex Cox as Doyle
- Miguel Galván as Doug
- César Rodríguez as Dedo Peralta
- David Villalpando as Skinny
- Josefina Echánove as Romeo's Grandmother
- Miguel Iglesias as Danny Mestiza
- Katie Barberi as Stewardess
- "Perdita Durango: A Case Study". sensesofcinema.com. the cuts made from the Spanish version for the U.S. release.