There are a good many things we need not see on screen yet again, but one of the most obvious is certainly another takeoff on Robert DeNiro’s “You talking to me?” scene from “Taxi Driver.” But that’s just one of the unwelcome sights in “Matando Cabos,” a raucous, rowdy Mexican dark comedy about a couple of intertwined, misbegotten kidnappings. Highly influenced by the Tarantino model that’s now pretty old hat (emulating “Reservoir Dogs,” it includes not one but two episodes involving severed figures, along with plenty of beatings, car chases and fights, all done up with in-your-face attitude). At one point there’s even an echo of the “Singin’ in the Rain” sequence from “A Clockwork Orange,” with a wrestler slamming around one poor victim while Tchaikovsky plays on the soundtrack. The picture exhibits a lot of energy and visual pizzazz, but ultimately it’s all empty style without substance, and its characters are a repulsive lot. It’s more likely to make you cringe than laugh.
The title character is Oscar Cabos (Pedro Armendariz), a dictatorial businessman who regularly abuses everybody in his orbit. Just now he’s beaten up Jaque (Tony Dalton), the boyfriend of his daughter Paulina (Ana Claudia Talancon), who also works for him. When Jaque comes to the tycoon’s office to mend fences, Cabos tries to assault him but slips on a golf ball and winds up unconscious. The terrified Jaque enlists his cruder buddy Mudo (Kristoff) to help him haul the guy away to give them time to decide what to do with him, but before they can install him in the trunk of their car, the janitor–an old friend of Cabos’ whom he’d treated like dirt over the years–steals the fellow’s suit and shoes. Unfortunately for him, his own son Botcha (Raul Mendez) had enlisted Nico (Gustavo Sanchez Parra), a singularly dumb thug, to help him kidnap the hated Cabos, and the guy Nico knocks out before wrapping a bag over his head and turning him over to Botcha is thus Botcha’s own father, who’s soon installed as a hostage in the apartment of Botcha’s girlfriend Lula (Rocio Verdejo). Further complications ensue when Jaque’s car gets rear-ended and the trunk jams, leading Mudo to call in his friend, a brutish ex-wrestler with the ring name Mascarita (Joaquin Casio) and the grappler’s even weirder chum Tony “the Cannibal” (Silverio Palacios), for help. Eventually many of the characters wind up at a party being hosted by Cabos’ wife, but there are other ingredients in the mix, including a bunch of soccer ruffians, a screeching parrot whose owner is a gun freak with a penchant for Beethoven, and a cross-eyed truck driver who can’t abide being ridiculed about his infirmity.
There’s a certain puerile cleverness about the way all this has been tied together by writer-director Alejandro Lozano along with co-scripters Dalton and Kristoff. But it’s the sort of puzzle in which the pieces fit together snugly enough, but the picture they ultimately reveal isn’t at all attractive. The comic mayhem of “Matando Cabos” is too often of an ugly, nasty sort, crossing the line from disgustingly funny to just plain disgusting. Logic is in predictably short supply, and the pile of coincidences, accidents and contrivances that accumulate on the way to the cynical conclusion becomes nothing more than the sort of sophomoric invention drugged-out schoolboys might come up with, mostly involving vulgarity and violence in pretty equal measure. (All the stuff involving the crazed wrestler and his pal Tony is especially juvenile and gross.) The performances are wildly over-the-top, with veteran Armendariz easily outdoing Danny De Vito at his gesticulating worst as the brutal boss. The others follow suit, though at slightly lower volume. Lozano, editor Alberto de Toro and cinematographer Juan Jose Saravia resort to every visual device imaginable to keep things bustling along and conceal the seams in the chain of wackiness, but the result is more exhausting than pleasurable.
“Matando Cabos” literally means “Killing Cabos,” and perhaps as a time-killer it will suffice for viewers who prize a pure adrenaline rush over all else, even common sense. But the unalloyed sleaziness insures that any laughs it might engender will carry a sour aftertaste.