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Image Entertainment presents

La Lucha: The Struggle (2004)

"It's fun, that's all it is."- Junior

Stars: Martin Marin
Director: Duncan MacLeod

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for simulated violence, language
Run Time: 01:12:24
Release Date: 2005-06-21
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-CB- C-


DVD Review

I grew up watching wrestling (aka soap operas for guys), tuning in every Sunday morning to watch the exploits of the various characters and their feuds. At some point in my early teens, the essential ludicrousness of the whole thing hit me, and I quit watching, never really finding any interest in it again. Seeing some Santo movies on DVD in the last couple or so years was pretty amusing, and La Lucha: The Struggle, appeared to be a way to pick up further on that vibe. The documentary doesn't really achieve much worth viewing, though.

La Lucha: The Struggle (which means The Struggle: The Struggle if you translated it, according to the definition of "lucha" given in the film) promised a look at, according to the box description, one of the hottest pop culture phenomenons going. Right. It must also be the quietest, most low-profile phenomenon going, judging by the crowds at some of the events seen here. The film focuses on one wrestler/promoter, Martin Marin, and his unofficial school for training young wrestlers. Some of these kids have had problems with drugs, alcohol, and authority, and the discipline involved in training helps to straighten them out, to a certain degree. Some are there because it's a family tradition. Mainly, they just want the opportunity to punch other people without getting arrested.

Marin works with Liz, who helps promote his events and makes costumes. She stumbled upon the lucha scene and fell in love with it. The two provide the center for the film, with Marin's stable of teen wrestlers providing comments and stories throughout. The film is loosely structured in sections split by onscreen definitions of terms relating to the topic at hand. Horizontally scrolling text supplies background information at times, but it diverts attention from what's happening onscreen. The film takes place over the course of a couple years, with its major event a wrestling/burlesque extravaganza.

I'm not sure who the audience for this is intended to be; wrestling fans will probably be unimpressed with the relatively amateurish quality of the people performing in the ring, and the uninitiated are unlikely to be converted. No one person's story is really latched onto, though Matt, a onetime gang member and substance abuser, comes and goes during the film as he struggles to get away from his past and stay clean. Too much time is spent around the "Lucha VaVoom" burlesque event, with an interminable amount of time spent in the dressing rooms of the female wrestler/dancers, with endless shots of them putting on makeup and getting dressed (though there is nothing titillating about any of it). Actual event footage is miniscule compared to the tedious buildup.

A variety of topics are touched upon, including injuries and wrestlers who use homosexuality and/or transvestism as part of their act, but again, nothing gets looked at in enough detail to make much sense of it or fit it into a larger context, particularly as the film only looks at this one strictly small time operation. If this lucha movement is so vital to Latino culture in the US, we certainly don't see many members of the community at the matches. This is about the lowest level on the totem pole in terms of quality. One woman describes the "scene" as the new punk rock, but I didn't see any indication of anything remotely "punk" about it, unless you count the allegations of exploitation, misrepresentation and fraud made by Liz against Marin late in the film. Punk has had its share of that, at least.

In the end, I was no wiser about the lucha scene among the Latino community than when I started, and I felt somewhat bad for these kids who have no other aims than to simulate beating the hell out of each other (although one, we're told, is studying to be a doctor). The absence of the supposed community that this appeals to doesn't help the argument that this is a vital piece of Latino culture in action.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot on full-frame video, this looks kinda ugly. Daytime shots are generally free of defects, but shots in low light situations have a fairly heavy grain level. There are several instances where director MacLeod had to blur out individual faces and company logos, presumably for permission or rights reasons.

Image Transfer Grade: C

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is suitable for the demands placed upon it, which is dialogue heavy, with the occasional thumps and bangs of ring events coming through clearly.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Slide show of photographs from the film with director commentary
Extras Review: A selection of photos presented as a slide show (04m:56s) gives director MacLeod the opportunity to answer questions from an unidentified woman. He mainly covers material already discussed in the film, so I'm not sure what the point was. A trailer (02m:57s) is also included.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

A diffuse, meandering documentary, La Lucha: The Struggle presents the viewer with a glimpse of Latino culture without saying all that much about it. Even at a scant 70 minutes, this felt overlong. The DVD presents the film in solid but unspectacular fashion.

Jeff Wilson 2005-06-14