Herod's Law (1999) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Mexico, 1949. The fable of a janitor turned Mayor on a little town lost in the Mexican desert, who gradually realizes how far his new acquainted power and corruption can get him.

  • After the corrupt former Mayor is killed by the peasants, poor janitor Juan Vargas is appointed new Mayor of a desert town in central Mexico. Although he tries to bring the motto of the ruling party to town (modernity, peace and progress) he realizes soon that there's nothing to do against corruption... except to become corrupt. Step by step, helped by his pistol, Juan Vargas becomes the law and the worst Major in the town's history.

  • En 1949, El alcade de un pequeño pueblo es linchado por sus abusos de poder. El Gobernador decide nombrar a Juan Vargas, encargado de un basurero y antiguo militante del Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), como sucesor del puesto; Vargas trata de hacer su trabajo con las mejores intenciones hasta que descubre las delicias del poder y la corrupción. Poco a poco se transforma en un tirano que es capaz de todo para quedarse en su puesto por siempre y para siempre. La metamorfósis de Vargas va ocurriendo a medida que sucumbe a la insensible ambición política acoplada con la corrupción y la traición.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • A hilarious attack on the ruling party (the PRI, previously known as PNR and PRM) in 1949, during the reign of President Miguel Alemán (1946-1952) and filmed in sepia tones reminiscent of that area. So harsh, in fact, that the government of Mexico -- still in the hands of the PRI in 1999 -- successfully blocked release for some time.

    The people of a village, where few residents speak Spanish and the school is in ruins, kill the local mayor. The state governor (Pedro Almendáriz) looks for a satisfactory replacement and chooses a garbage collector from another town, Juan Vargas (Damián Alcázar), simply because he is known to be a loyal party member. Vargas takes the job seriously, but a local madam, Doña Lupe (Isela Vargas) and a corrupt priest soon teach him that "anything goes in politics" and Vargas is soon inventing laws and taxes of his own.

    There are many authentic touches. Vargas car is an antique Packard -- the traditional status car of Mexican politicians during the thirties and forties. The name of the village, de los Aguados, means thin, watered down, melted. The only educated man is the local doctor, who is a member of the PAN (Partido de Acción Nacional) which now governs much of northern México and holded the presidency from 2000 to 2012.

    The ending is a bitter surprise which gives real meaning to the title, "La Ley de Herodes" which is defined in the film as "o te chingas o te jodes" which might be loosely translated as "you get fucked or you get screwed".

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