Most people might remember the ritual of walking up and down each aisle in a Blockbuster on a Saturday night just before it closes in hopes of finding something, anything to make your weekend bearable. By then, all of the New Releases were spoken for and what remained were the half-hearted discards of the film-making industry. These were straight-to-video films that offered quasi-entertainment packaged around the unbelievable achievement that they were even made in the first place. This weekly rite felt like an ongoing journey in hopes for that hidden gem that would make (or break) one’s Saturday night. This typically ended with me being unable to decide on a film and just grabbing the last one on the way up to the checkout counter. In this case, that film was Cartel 2045.
Synopsis: The year is 2045, the continuing drug war has caused havoc between The United States and Mexico. Gear Side International, a robotics engineering company on the brink of bankruptcy, sells off their technology to the Cartel on the black market. With the advanced military robotics technology in the wrong hands the cartel uses it to their advantage; replacing their enforcers, hit men, and soldiers. (Uncork’d Entertainment)
Starring: Danny Trejo, Alexander P. Heartman, and Brad Schmidt
Writer: Chris Le
Director: Chris Le
Running Time: 106mins
If you think that you’re prepared Cartel 2045, you have no idea. In Mexico, cartels have control of robotic mechs that do their dirty work and the military plans to put an end to it. While the premise was simple and the cast was relatively unknown with the exception of Danny Trejo, it still seemed like it would be mildly entertaining but in truth, Cartel 2045 managed to both look and feel as if a high school AV Club made it, except that its members were in their late thirties and were operating on that same AV Club’s budget.
The one bright spot in this film was Danny Trejo, simply because of past history with the actor. His delivery is stiff and awkward most of the time and he’s resigned to mostly spout off a couple of lines of meaningless dialogue and then shoot something that was moving, but he was still enjoyable anytime he was onscreen. The film itself had a Grindhouse vibe to it that helped play into its lack of production value, but it quickly became a tiresome gimmick that ended up disguising a lot of the film’s deficiencies.
Outside of Trejo, Cartel 2045 has very little going for it. The low budget film-making is mostly excusable because people have to start somewhere and this film was likely someone’s first job, but what was indefensible was when you have a semi-interesting idea and then lazily transfer that idea into a script that is continually getting in its own way. This was so bad that it almost made Cartel 2045 unwatchable. A major issue was the ongoing struggle to remember any of the character’s names even halfway through the film.
Even taking into account the production value for this film, the special effects were sub-par. While this may seem overly judgmental and harsh but it was clear that this was not going to be up to Marvel’s CGI standards, however, there were simple and solvable problems that if addressed could’ve helped the overall product. Some examples are the mechs shooting bullets towards soldiers but none of them actually connecting with anything around them, deflections, property damage, etc. or some of the LED screens going in and out of the green screens that were being used as their placeholders.
In the end, Cartel 2045 is a very tough watch that was hard to finish. On one hand, it should be commended for doing its best to make something with a very small budget that was more than likely blown on coaxing Danny Trejo to be in the film, but on the other hand was quickly and easily exposed as being a film that had a decent idea but was plagued by laziness that resulted in very poorly executed product. While writing negatively about films isn’t the most enjoyable experience, sparing someone else from having to hastily watch Cartel 2045 is well worth it. Instead of being good or better yet, tolerable, it was something far below my already lowered expectations. The silver lining from all of this is that Trejo’s career will go unscathed and he’ll continue to work in film and TV.
*Cartel 2045 will be released on VOD starting May 1st*