Cartel War Poster
Reviews –

This is really a great film - one of those pictures critics, filmmakers and plain old movie fans can't wait to share with other people.  Periodically, we run across a film that we want others to see, knowing they'll be surprised and delighted by what they see on screen.  Distrupt/Dismantle combines, for me, the great characters and character development seen in 1970s classics like Dirty Harry, The Seven Ups and, of course, The French Connection - with the best of today's kinetic fast action films.  And it nails that modern action edge without resorting to that irritating fast and furiously confusing cutting we've seen in films like The Bourne Identity and countless imitators.

The writing is hard, real and knowing, boiling like acid from a thousand real life war stories that take place in this part of the country every day in the continuing battle with powerful drug cartels.  Writer/Director team Jack Lucarelli/Troy Price's script is based on a true story - involving the takedown of a powerful and seductive cartel leader in Mexico by an elite and secret LA Police undercover team - the blood-soaked history of Mexico's villainous "Black Widow."

The cast is stellar, populated by some of the finest performers working today.  Good stories and great scripts seem to attract great acting,
like bees to honey.  Standouts in this film include Sandra Luesse as an undercover agent motivated by a serious case of revenge hunger and Dwight Hicks as the troubled and tightly wound Commander of the police group.  Mercedes Brito and Roberto Sanchez are unforgettable as the fictional "Black Widow" and her brother... both of them charming, sensual and brutal.  Brito seems to push every audience button at once, creating a character we hate with every fiber of our being yet can't seem to look away from.

And then we have Jack Lucarelli, half of the writing/directing team, playing veteran cop Mike Marino, the film's alpha hero.  Jack's a guy you've seen in the movies for years, but never quite like this.  His performance contains all the gravitas of an Eastwood or a Bronson or a McQueen in their heyday; he owns every scene he's in.  And like those past greats, he does it without saying much.  He's old school in the traditional and unstoppable sense of the phrase.  He has a rigid code and he follows the rule book, until the rule book clashes with his code.  And then he kicks the rule book to the curb.  For Jack, this is a balls-out, iconic performance, not to be taken lightly.  It's not easy to be the hero these days when most kids wanna be the heavy.  It's a razor line Jack manages to straddle, combining classic hero stuff with modern-day savvy.  And this seemingly effortless performance makes Mike Marino a true cinematic hero icon, instantly reminding us of the likes of Bullitt, Dirty Harry Callahan, the uncontrolled rage and glimmer of compassion in Bronson's Paul Kersey from the first Death Wish movie... and of course, the crazed madness of Gene Hackman's manic true-life cop hero Popeye Doyle from The French Connection.  In fact, there's a bit of a tribute to Popeye and that Academy Award-winning 'Connection' early in this film... just a taste.  Sharp ears will catch it, particularly if they've ever been to Poughkeepsie.  But this little homage is just a taste of what's to come.  And I've got to toss in the Duke Wayne comparison as well, because this film owes a bit to Wayne and Howard Hawks' classic RIO BRAVO (1959).

There's a scene well into the film where Jack's Mike Marino shows up at villainous brother Antonio Vega's office.  Out of frustration, Marino swills some of Vega's expensive tequila and fires a series of bizarre questions at the drug dealer, all designed to throw him off balance, maybe provoke an illegal reaction.  It's a monologue, mostly.  Scary, funny and unforgettable, the ride beginning with a simply question from our hero... "Do you like to fish?"  Worth the price of admission.

Production values are great.  Rumor has it these guys had a tight budget but the visual scope, from the locations, aerial shots, crowds, and general production value reminded me of classic epic cop pictures like Magnum Force, Bullitt and The French Connection.  Like those films, set in San Francisco and New York, this film uses the city of Los Angeles as a character, a dark, seductive, evil character that even old Raymond Chandler would recognize in spite of all the boom boxes, wall graffiti and crack dealers.  And there's even a funny nod to present day politics... the Mayor of LA in this picture finds himself in as much press trouble as his real life counterpart, due to some consistently bad decisions.

Run to your local theater to see this when it comes out... buy it... share it with friends.  Famed director Howard Hawks, himself no slouch at creating heroic icons, was once asked what makes a classic film.  He said "... three great scenes and no bad ones."    Well, Disrupt/Dismantle would be near the top of his list.

And mine.  And yours, when you see it.

    - Steve Latsaw -

NOTE - Steve Latshaw has been a successful screenwriter in Hollywood for many years.
             He is currently directing the remake of the 1959 cult thriller, "Killer Shrews."
             The remake, "Return of the Killer Shrews," stars James Best, Bruce Davison and John Schneider.
             Other recent films include:
             "Gale Force" starring Treat Williams and Cliff De Young (writer)
             "Command Performance" starring Dolph Lundgren (screenplay by)

Synopsis –

Caught in the trenches between the teeming streets of LA's criminal underworld and the agendas of its political leaders, one veteran cop, Mike Marino, embarks upon a personal journey in pursuit of redemption. He follows his gut and trusts his heart - despite the dangers he may face, and the harm he may cause to those he leads.

As the power of a notorious crime family swells and litters the city with the casualties of their cruelty, Marino is armed with his instincts to not just break the rules of investigation, but to break them no matter what the protocol - no matter what the consequences. It's the story of a vendetta for justice painted against the backdrop of Los Angeles, of death and danger, of challenge and failure, and of the pure will to triumph.