The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982) Poster

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The Ballad of an Innocent Man
charlywiles16 July 2015
This is a heartbreaking true story of a miscarriage of justice as well as an examination of racism and prejudice in early 1900's Texas. Edward James Olmos is outstanding in the title role and gives one of the finest performances in this underrated actor's career. The film also has a fine supporting cast of Western character actors headed by Bruce McGill as a reporter following the posse, James Gammon as a dedicated sheriff and Barry Corbin as the lawyer who takes up Cortez' case. The prison, courtroom and post-trial scenes are emotionally powerful. This is a low budget effort which probably explains the poor lighting and sometimes shaky camera work, but this largely unknown and underrated gem deserves to be discovered for its fine acting and compelling story.
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The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez
osloj5 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982) was a pretty popular film in schools during the 1980's because it played in many Spanish classes. Along with The Official Story (1985), and El Norte (1983), you'd see it often if you were taking a Spanish class back then.

It featured the then unknown, Edward James Olmos, as Gregorio Cortez. Gregorio Cortez is a poor peasant who one day is visited by the local white sheriff who is inquiring about a stolen horse. Gregorio Cortez doesn't speak English and the Spanish interpreter isn't that knowledgeable in the variance of the Spanish language. He asks Gregorio Cortez if he has purchased a horse, and Gregorio Cortez replies that he has not. Gregorio Cortez in fact had purchased a female horse, but it is differentiated in the Spanish language. In Spanish, a female horse is called a "Yegua". Thus Gregorio Cortez had answered truthfully, but pistols are drawn and Gregorio Cortez's brother is killed, and then the sheriff is shot by Gregorio Cortez in self defense.

Gregorio Cortez goes off with his horse and there is the action of the film. It has some lovely music and the scenes are done well. The local posse and sheriff are on his trail and finally capture him.

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez was also a song of the time.

Gregorio Cortez is based on a true incident.
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An utterly absorbing story.
Hey_Sweden3 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The real-life story of Mexican rancher Gregorio Cortez is recounted in this engaging film from the under-rated director Robert M. Young ("Short Eyes"). It's now generally regarded as a landmark film in the annals of Chicano cinema, although it may still not receive much attention and/or appreciation in the mainstream. It benefits highly from its incredible period recreation; you really do feel like you're back in 1901 Texas. Add to that great atmosphere, a reasonably intelligent script (by Victor Villasenor, based on the book by Americo Paredes), a sympathetic protagonist, and a first-rate cast chock full of talent (every major role is played by a recognizable and reliable character actor), and you have a solid little picture worthy of your attention.

Cortez is on the run from a determined posse after having killed a beloved local lawman (Timothy Scott, "Macon County Line"). Stepping into the late lawman's role is amiable Sheriff Fly (James Gammon, "Major League"), who leads the gang who are bent on exacting supposed "justice".

However, Villasenor and Young take an interesting narrative approach, giving out details from a couple of perspectives, and not really stating Cortez's side of things until late in the game; we don't learn that the whole incident derived from a simple misunderstanding until the final third or so.

Along the way, we get exquisite rural photography courtesy of D.P. Reynaldo Villalobos, stirring music (on which both W. Michael Lewis and Olmos himself worked, adapting the legendary corrido folk song about Cortez), and a tale with emotional resonance.

Olmos is quietly powerful in the lead, and is extremely well supported by Gammon, Tom Bower ("Die Hard 2"), Bruce McGill ("National Lampoon's Animal House"), Brion James ("Blade Runner"), Alan Vint ("Badlands"), Scott, Pepe Serna ("Vice Squad"), Michael McGuire ("Hard Times"), William Sanderson ('Newhart'), Barry Corbin ("No Country for Old Men"), Jack Kehoe ("Melvin and Howard"), and the lovely Rosanna DeSoto ("Stand and Deliver").

Haunting and memorable, "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" packs a pretty impressive punch.

Eight out of 10.
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Superior Western based on an actual incident
Woodyanders7 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Simple Mexican farmer Gregorio Cortez (superbly played with touching gentleness by Edward James Olmos) becomes a wanted fugitive and goes on the lam after killing a lawman in self-defense over a tragic misunderstanding of language in 1901 Texas.

Director Robert M. Young, who also co-wrote the thoughtful script with Victor Villasenor, not only presents a flavorsome evocation of the early turn of the century period setting that has a wonderfully lived-in authenticity, but also offers a trenchant and provocative commentary on prejudice, miscommunication, how the media can turn an ordinary man into a larger-than-life folk hero, and the harsh ugly reality of "frontier justice" that acquires considerable resonance and poignancy from the stark and unsentimental manner in which it tells the compelling fact-based story.

Olmos brings a winning humanity and vulnerability to his resourceful and reluctant outlaw character. Moreover, there are spot-on supporting contributions from James Gammon as tough, but fair Sheriff Frank Fly, Bruce McGill as earnest reporter Blakely, Brion James as the no-nonsense Captain Rogers, Pepe Serna as Cortez's brother Romaldo, Barry Corbin as compassionate lawyer B.R. Abernathy, Jack Kehoe as slimy prosecutor Pierson, and William Sanderson as a lonesome cowboy who's desperate for companionship. Kudos are also in order for the lovely cinematography by Reynaldo Villalobos and the harmonic score by Olmos and W. Michael Lewis. An excellent and affecting film.
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