Katheryn Bigelow, Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker, became an executive producer of Matthew Heineman’s directorial debut Cartel Land after seeing it, which should be a pretty good indicator of the film’s impact. The movie delivers an unprecedented view into the lives of two modern-day vigilante leaders who have taken up arms against the murderous Mexican drug cartels on separate sides of the Mexico and U.S. border. There’s a constant sense of danger as Heineman spends time shadowing Mexican doctor José Mireles, head of the heavily armed Autodefensas, around his state of Michoacán as his group engages in firefights with the cartels, protecting their own neighborhoods as the local authorities stand idly by. Up north, Heineman follows Nailer Foley, an impassioned army veteran who patrols the Texas border for cartel members with a volunteer group of citizens, some traveling hundreds of miles to join his cause. Cartel Land is an eye-opening look into a violent world that still menaces today, and also poses a provocative question: At what point does fighting fire with fire become the only option?
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