25 Years After Its US Release, Alex Cox’s Gritty ‘El Patrullero’ Gets Its First-Ever Trailer

Lead Photo: 'Highway Patrolman' courtesy of Film Forum
'Highway Patrolman' courtesy of Film Forum
Read more

“A highway patrolman is courteous, fair, and impartially enforces the law. It’s easy,” we’re told in the opening titles of the trailer for Alex Cox’s Highway Patrolman (El patrullero), “when everyone’s a criminal.” The 1991 drama may be set in the 1980s (and its Reno 911 aesthetic very much announces this right away) but it feels ready-made for 2018. Shot in Mexico by Cox – who directed Repo Man and Sid and Nancy – the film follows Pedro (Roberto Sosa), a rookie member of Mexico’s national highway patrol assigned to Nowheresville. Pedro’s colleagues, like Anibal (Bruno Bichir), take bribes and enrich themselves with contraband, but Pedro is intent on doing good – acting as a kind of South of the Border Serpico. That becomes harder to do once he needs to provide for both his wife and his prostitute mistress.

Aiming for a B-movie Western look that makes the most of the vastness of the dust-filled desert vistas of the US/Mexico border, Cox captures a time right before the war on drugs would dominate the border imaginary. It won’t surprise you to learn that its screenwriter, Peruvian-American Lorenzo O’Brien, went on to produce the likes of Narcos and Queen of the South. As Cox put it, “I used to think it was about the impossibility of doing good. But now I think it’s really about the impossibility of imposing goodness on others. Today it can be seen as a film about the drug war, of course — a Mexican film genre in itself.” To judge by its trailer (the very first one it’s ever had, as the original release never created one for it) Highway Patrolman has all the trappings of that genre: explosions in the desert, drunken bar brawls, cocaine-snorting women, and shootouts on the border as far as the eye can see. With a new 4K restoration and a theatrical release, Cox’s not-yet cult hit may finally become one.

Highway Patrolman will be playing at Film Forum starting November 30, 2018