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Ballad of Gregori Cortez, The

In 1901, in Gonzalez, Texas, Gregorio Cortez is a Mexican on the run after being involved in three different murders of Texas law enforcement officers. In Texans' eyes of the time, and perhaps now, Cortez is plainly guilty. But his full story is different; this is as close as it's come to being fully heard.

Olmos as Cortez is great. He doesn't speak English; the film-maker wisely doesn't subtitle his Spanish, and thus shows the confusion surrounding Cortez's involvement in the crimes. His brother, confronted by a racist deputy and sheriff accusing him of stealing a horse, is shot, and the sheriff is killed in a shootout. Cortez flees to the home of a ranch worker friend, where a posse attacks, and two more men are shot and killed. Cortez's brother also dies.

A San Antonio reporter (McGill) rides with the Texas Rangers' posse to get their version of Cortez's story. Flashbacks of the killings illuminate events, as both sides recall them. Cortez, caught and put on trial, is represented by a lawyer (Corbin), who finds out what really happened, and expects his client will be freed.

The film shows Cortez as neither a martyr nor a saint. His version of the initial murder isn't much different from the deputy's: It began over a mistranslation between the deputy and Cortez, then escalated. Cortez's family is jailed in the expectation that will flush him out, and civil liberties go out the window. Eventually, we learn that Cortez was in and out of the courtroom many times as a result of the crimes.

The film opens with Cortez's being chased by a bunch of white guys, and bodies are returned to families; the first ten minutes are confusing. Eventually, things are clear, and Young's steady direction keeps the film going. The cast is full of character actors with obscure names, but you'll immediately recognize their faces.

Director(s): Robert M. Youn g
Writer(s): Victor Villasenor
Cast: Edward James Olmos, James Gammon, Bruce McGill, Barry Corbin
Release Date: 1982   
Keyword: Gregorio Cortez, Texas Rangers, 1901, Gonzalez Texas, posse
Target Age: 15+   Category: human rights
Documentary: no
Language: English, and some Spanish without subtitles   Reviewer's Name: Micah
Review: http://MRQE
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