Movie Review: Cartel Land examines anti-drug vigilantes on both sides of the Mexican border

Matthew Heineman’s documentary Cartel Land opens with a bit of misdirection. The film’s initial interview subjects are actual cartel members who manufacture crystal meth; Heineman shoots them at work in the middle of the night, out in the Mexican desert, wearing masks to obscure their identities and speaking frankly about their awareness of the devastation their activities will wreak (mostly in the U.S., where the drugs are headed). It’s riveting stuff, but it’s also the last time that Cartel Land will directly address the cartels until it returns to this group of meth cooks in its final moments. The movie is actually about two very different groups, on opposite sides of the Mexican-American border, who are fighting the cartels, and Heineman cuts back and forth between them in a way that creates an entirely false equivalence. Whether he’s aware that it’s false remains …

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