Original Title: Juana la Cubana
Director: Raúl Fernández
Writer: Raúl Fernández, Rolando Fernández, Carlos Valdemar
Sultry latina club performer by night Juana la Cubana, freedom fighter Commander Zeta by day, Juanita witnesses the murder of her father at a young age, and works her entire life thereafter to not only win the freedom of her fellow citizens under a military regime, but avenge her father's death as well.
I wrote that myself. ¿Te gusta?
If it seems a little silly, well... it matches the content pretty accurately then.
If I had not read info about this film elsewhere, I would assume it was made for TV. There are moments of gore and some profanity, but nothing over the top. The movie even opens by giving plot as large white credits are displayed right in the center. I felt like I was watching a goddamn episode of Dallas or Falcon Crest or something.
Only with machine guns.
I was torn as I was watching this, as my theme is supposed to be Mexploitation. While this was filmed in Mexico, with what I assume are Mexican actors for the most part, it does take place in Cuba as far as I could tell. While the theme of a military struggle between a dictator-like regime and guerrilla fighters seems to be a common one for Central American countries, I'm just not entirely sure it is a TRUE Mexploitation.
Let's call it Latinamericasploitation and move on?
Juana la Cubana, the film and the character, are filled with melodrama. The star Rosa Gloria Chagoyán had a pretty long career prior to this film, and was evidently in a very successful movie series (by Mexico standards) called Lola la trailera, or Lola the Trucker. These are not subtitled, alas, so I could not bring myself to watch them quite yet. Despite looking a little like a tranny, she has quite a bit going for her... namely lots of tits and ass, although we never actually get to see the goods.
And unfortunately for Commander Zeta Juanita la Cubanita, her assets end there.
HAHAHAHA I rule
The makers of this film realize this, obviously, and take every chance they can find to have her get clothing torn off, go for a swim, have
conversations about overthrowing the government while in a Frederick's of Hollywood issued uniform, or just "dance" (I use this term very, very loosely) in sequined Vegas-style outfits.
You'll be treated to lots of those dancing/singing numbers. Lots. I guess it's not all bad. They are definitely good for a laugh (the spider web dance number just looks so bad it's good), and the second song where she sings "tengo, tengo, teeeeengo" is kinda catchy.
And a guy totally grabs her tit so that rules.
Her acting switch is either on 100% or off entirely. I can't remember the last time I saw someone be stiff as a board then completely over the top one scene later. You'll get deuce chills in embarrassment for her as she yells to God not to let a little girl die as she gives what has to be the most pathetic CPR demonstration of all time. Yikes.
The actors around her are not much better - and most of them just stay on the overacting side. of things. There's lots of falling to the knees and big belly laughs. Kinda like those Mexican comedy shows you'll see on Univision, only this wasn't meant to be comedic. Believe it or not, even our old pal Erik Estrada hams it up just a tad. I KNOW! I couldn't believe it either! His voice is hilariously dubbed with someone who has a deeper voice than his own, so that's a plus as well.
Things like this are what made this film entertaining for me. There's nothing spectacular by any means about the direction, the photography, or even the story. It's straightforward, and easy to follow despite just being kind of silly and random. The U.S. government sends two fighters to assist Juana in overthrowing the government... get this... because they are developing chemical weapons and testing them on civilians, and these weapons will be sold to governments in Iraq! (It may have been the Middle East, not specifically Iraq, but come on, it was the early 90s... we all know what was going on then!)
There are a few times when we get story jumps that just kind of happen. I just thought... um OK so we're here now? I guess she found out this? I guess doing that means this?
Just roll with it. I promise it's for the better.
Don't look at the fact that one of the American's is a demolitions expert. Trust me, you will lose interest. It's not worth it.
Look instead that this demolitions expert uses fucking bottle rockets to blow up tanks. Or he dresses in drag and totally fools Estrada when he comes through looking for him, complete with a slap on his well shaven ass! Oh yeah, that's right... now you're getting it.
The action sequences are at best mildly entertaining, but they get the job done. There is a great bazooka that needs to be seen to be believed. They love some Molotov cocktails as well.
I feel like I am just kind of listing "stuff" about Juana la Cubana, but honestly that's kind of what you take from it. I feel like I have more screenshots than actual review here. This film as a whole is less than the sum of its parts. But there are lots of those parts... quirky, silly parts.
Speaking of parts...
Bet you didn't see that one coming!
This film is ridiculous. It lacks just about everywhere except in the so bad it's good department. It's not really worth seeking out. Like I said, the idea is better than the execution. But maybe we'll discover that is the true magic of Mexican genre cinema.
If I was going to rate this on merit, it would probably get a 3.5...maybe
But all those little silly parts just bump it up a little. Movies like this remind me why I like Sabado Gigante.
Score: 5 / 10