Video Pick: Coyote

May 22, 2010

By DAVID CONGALTON

Steve is 31, already retired, and bored with life. He made his money quick and easy as a successful Tucson entrepreneur. Now he plays golf, lectures other young wannabe Donald Trumps and acts bemused as his beautiful fiance, Katie, worries over every detail of their impending wedding. This golden boy has it all.

J. is his pal, his literal partner-in-crime. Half-Hispanic, half-Anglo, J. is going nowhere fast, struggling to keep his dead-end day job, stuffing crap in vending machines around town. The two have an unlikely bond, but this friendship runs deep.

Turns out that the son of the maid employed by Katie’s family is an illegal and he is caught in a routine traffic stop and deported to Mexico. Katie frets. J. has the answer: He and Steve will drive south of the border and sneak the friend back to Tucson in their truck. Just like that. As J. explains, “They never question white guys.”

J. is right and, flush with success, Steve suddenly finds his Next Big Thing. He will take his business and marketing skills and put them to use, bringing illegals across the border for a fee, what Steve calls, “a kinder, gentler approach to human smuggling.”

Steve and J. go into business together, much to the dismay and concern of Katie. Just as he would with any other business plan, Steve puts together a brochure and hawks his new venture in the border towns. They will be “coyotes,” but they’re different–they have a heart, complete with fruit baskets and free Spanish-English dictionaries for illegals who sign up for one of Steve’s three easy smuggling plans: Gold. Silver. Or Platinum.

Of course, things are never that easy. Steve and J. and their ragtag compatriots quickly run afoul of the real thing–the other human smugglers want to put them out of business permanently. The Feds want them in jail. Katie just wants to get married and lead the privileged life.

“Coyote” was first released in 2007, but never made the theaters. It became a minor hit on the film festival circuit. I stumbled across it by accident on cable TV one morning, seeing the last 30 minutes. The story immediately grabbed me and I tracked the movie down, ordering the DVD to experience it from the beginning.

Brian Petersen directed and plays Steve. He also co-wrote the gripping screenplay with Brett Spackman, who plays the hapless J. They know how to tell a story, both on the page and on the screen. Things move quickly as action plays out on both sides of the border.

Some mini-reviews I’ve read call “Coyote” a comedy. Not at all. This is a serious story that really helps one understand the incendiary situation in Arizona today. You see Steve and J. trying to outfox the zealous Minutemen standing guard, while also learning about the strengths and weaknesses of the security fence and how the U.S. Border Patrol functions. You get a sense of the dangers the illegals face in trying to cross the desert and how deadly and merciless the real Coyotes can be.

“Coyote” is a low-budget, modest production, but the script is smart and the characters well-etched. It doesn’t matter which side of the immigration issue you’re on–Petersen and Spackman give you a sense of what’s been happening in Arizona through the eyes of people you grow to care for and worry about, especially during the final riveting 30 minutes.

Too bad a movie like “Coyote” didn’t get some theater exposure — it would have been the perfect Palm Theatre experience. But rent it and spend some time with Steve and J. I promise that their journey will stay with you long after the end credits roll.


3 Comments

  1. willie says:

    One female actress dialog:
    Uttered: That Mexicans have no real desire to cross the border if they have the basic fulfillment at home.
    She described the basic American dream being having a home, a family and a good job a would be same dream as a Mexican dream which does not exist.
    This I can relate to, not only with Hispanics, Asians, and other foreigners. I have found this to be believaby true that (I will say) most foreigners have no real desire to leave home except as a means to fulfill the simple basic of life.

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  2. willie says:

    This is a realistic reflection of what the Hispanic people legal and illegal (not gangs) are really like, good hearted, and not beyond bending over backwards for other people. Then the last half-hour is intriguing of the gang criminal type.
    It’s a good move to put you back on even keel from all the deviating propaganda.
    After seeing this film, I why we don’t (Mexicans in Mexico and US) put it to a vote in making Mexico a part of the larger US territory. This way there will be no borders, everyone work, pay taxes and social security, families can come together as well as come and go freely as they have been doing illegally anyway, and the criminal element dealt with accordingly. The welfare may probably diminish. The entire continent will be a barrier against terrorist infiltration. They have always been a part of us (illegal and legal) anyway and very few people in all of my lifetime has objectionable to them. This may be more a significant issue than the Gay Rights issue.
    Again, the movie is a surreal reflection of the Mexican people as I have always known.

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  3. willie says:

    I just ordered one from Amazon.com ($1.54 new + shipping, they have 3 more new ones lest, and used ones for the same price, then it jumps to $12).

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