Starring: Gael García Bernal, Roberta Colindrez, Perla De La Rosa, Joaquín Cosío, Raúl Castillo, Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, and El Hijo del Santo
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Gael García Bernal is a revelation as the titular character in Cassandro. He’s a mesmerizing figure you can’t keep your eyes off, carrying the film’s seemingly purposeful impromptu qualities with unwavering charisma. Like the underground lucha libre matches Cassandro starts with, the movie feels grimy and urgent, with messages too important not to get right the first time. Its pacing, fight choreography, and Creed-like score embody the hunger that Bernal infuses in his portrayal of the real-life trailblazer. Cassandro, the film and the performance, is an intimate portrait of perseverance and personal awakening that is truly captivating.
There’s a lot to love about Cassandro, but I think it could’ve packed more of a punch. I’m all for subtlety, but the film feels too restrained for such an eccentric character. The quiet, intimate moments are executed beautifully, but the ring-side action is consistently underwhelming. The cinematography during these sequences feels distant and static, failing to match the exciting physicality of Gael García Bernal’s performance. There’s no denying that this is a great story, but I wish it was told with more of the signature flair that Cassandro (Bernal) brought to the sport.
Cassandro is filled with moments that should be awe-inspiring and uplifting, but it often fails to leave an impact in the ring, hurt far too often by a cyclic, bland score that seriously hinders several key scenes. The biopic of Saúl Armendáriz (Gael García Bernal) isn’t a complete disaster, but it does feel rushed and undercooked, with too many character actions being inconsequential to the plot because the story structure lacks focus and breathing room. However, dressed in impeccable costume design, Bernal carries Cassandro in a genuinely endearing and exceptional performance, encapsulating everything fabulous about the “Liberace of Lucha Libre.”