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Herod's Law
DVD cover
Directed byLuis Estrada
Screenplay by
Produced byLuis Estrada
CinematographyNorman Christianson
Edited byLuis Estrada
Music bySantiago Ojeda
Distributed byArtecinema, Venevision International
Release date
  • November 9, 1999 (1999-11-09)
Running time
120 min

Herod's Law (original Spanish title La ley de Herodes) is a 1999 Mexican satirical black comedy political film, directed by Luis Estrada and produced by Bandidos Films; it is a caricature of corruption in Mexico and the long-ruling PRI party (notably the first Mexican film to criticize the PRI explicitly by name,[1] which caused some controversy and interference from the Mexican government because of it).[2][3] The film won the Ariel Award for Best Picture from the Mexican Academy of Film. It was also awarded the Special Jury Prize in Latin American Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival.

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The film opens inside an office, with a man anxiously filling bags with money before fleeing into the night, leaving a recently killed man lying inside. An angry peasant mob catches him, and decapitates him with a machete.

The man is revealed to have been the mayor (presidente municipal) of a town called San Pedro de los Saguaros; State Governor Sánchez of the PRI orders his subordinate Secretary López to find someone suitable to hold the vacant office in an interim fashion, in order to prevent criticism to the party's rule nearing the 1952 general elections. López gives the task to his subordinate Ramírez, who proposes Juan Vargas, the dimwitted and naïve head of a landfill, for the job.

Vargas happily accepts, seeing it as the beginning of a promising political career. He and his wife Gloria are initially elated at the designation, but their excitement quickly turns to disappointment when they arrive at San Pedro, an impoverished hamlet inhabited by illiterate native peasants, most of whom don't even speak Spanish.

Much to his wife's chagrin, Vargas decides to stay in the town and see what can come of his rule there. Assisted by his secretary Carlos Pek, Vargas spends the next days learning about the town, the corruption of past PRI mayors, and meeting the town notables, which include Doña Lupe, madam of the town brothel, greedy parish priest Pérez and Doctor Morales, a highly educated man and a member of the opposition PAN.

Because past administrations had emptied the municipal coffers, Vargas goes to the state capital to ask López for more funding. On the way his car breaks down and he is helped by American Robert Smith, promising to pay him for his services while giving him a fake name and address. López denies Vargas's request, but gives him a copy of the Mexican Constitution and a revolver so he can make money.

Vargas begins studying the Constitution, finding many ways to collect fines and taxes to punish corruption. He tries to have the brothel closed, but Doña Lupe confronts him with a cleaver, prompting Vargas to shoot her in the leg before running away in fear. Later she shows up in his office and offers him a large sum of money if he can look the other way while she runs her business. Initially hesitant, he ends up pocketing the money, marking the beginning of his descent into corruption.

As time passes, Vargas indulges in his newfound power and wealth. He finds ever more crafty ways to alter the law to his benefit, imposing heavy taxes on the townsfolk. He introduces Robert Smith, who had come to the town looking for his money, as an American engineer tasked with implementing electrical lighting in the town (under promise of a 50-50 business partnership), and lodges him at his home. Doña Lupe, fed up at Vargas's ever increasing demands for money and his indulging freely of her girls' services, hires a bouncer who severely beats him up when he goes to collect payment. Later that night, Vargas ambushes the bouncer and Doña Lupe, killing them and dumping their bodies in a ravine, inadvertedly leaving his PRI pin at the scene of the crime.

In the morning, he finds his pin is missing and, in a panic, orders Pek to conduct an investigation in order to gain some time. He decides to frame Filemón, the town drunkard, as the murderer, and Doctor Morales as the mastermind behind the crime. He has Morales exiled for his alleged participation in the crime and also for sexual misconduct towards his young housekeeper and other town girls (which is implied to be partly true, albeit grossly exaggerated). While "transporting" Filemón to jail, he discovers the drunkard had found his pin at the ravine, and even though he had planned to let him go after buying his silence with money and alcohol, he kills him in cold blood and leaves him on the side of the road.

Returning to the town, he finds his wife cheating on him with Smith, prompting him to fly into a rage and chain her up in their house after beating her. A power-drunk Vargas then extols draconian taxes and fines upon the population, making a disgruntled Pek denounce him as "the worst municipal president the town has ever had". López arrives in the town, having fled into the countryside after having orchestrated a failed attempt on a political rival's life, and demands Vargas give him the money he has made.

While trying to get the money at his house, he finds his wife had escaped his captivity and eloped to the United States with Smith, taking all the money with her. His sanity shattered, a rambling Vargas kills López and his henchman Tiburón, before confronting a mob of angry townsfolk led by Father Pérez and Pek. He is nearly lynched but is saved by the intervention of government officials on a manhunt for López.

The film ends with Vargas having become Federal Deputy, presenting himself as the one who brought justice to the corrupt López. Ramírez has become administrator at the landfill Vargas used to work at, and a newly appointed mayor arrives at San Pedro de los Saguaros, mirroring the exact way Vargas and his wife arrived at the town at the beginning of the story.

Critical reception

On review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, Herod's Law has an approval rating of 68% based on 25 reviews. The site's critics consensus reads, "La Ley de Herodes is a biting - if heavy-handed - political satire about greed and corruption in Mexico, featuring a brilliant performance from Damián Alcázar."[4]


Home media

This movie was released in Region 1 by 20th Century Fox and Venevision Intl. under the banner Cinema Latino in 2004.[5] This edition has since gone out of print.

A second edition was released in 2006 by Warner Home Video with Fernando Sariñana's Todo el poder.[6]

A third edition was released as a dual region issue for Region 1 and Region 4 by Videomax in 2007.[7]

The film was added to Netflix on July 16, 2021.[8]


  1. ^ Crow, Jonathan. "La Ley de Herodes (2000) - Luis Estrada | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie (synopsis). All Media Network. Retrieved July 1, 2016. The first film to criticize the PRI by name...
  2. ^ "'Herod's' powerful satire shakes down a corrupt nation". Chicago Tribune. July 11, 2003. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  3. ^ Munoz, Lorenza; Sheridan, Mary Beth (March 7, 2000). "Mexico's Government Becomes the Reluctant Star of the Show". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  4. ^ "Herod's Law". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  5. ^ "Herod's Law DVD". Amazon. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  6. ^ "Todo el Poder / La Ley de Herodes (Spanish) by Warner Home Video". Amazon. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  7. ^ "La ley de Herodes". (in Spanish). 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  8. ^ Aiello, Julieta (July 20, 2021). "3 películas premiadas para ver en Netflix: La ley de Herodes; Olivier Rousteing: El huérfano prodigio; Los últimos días". Indie Hoy (in Spanish). Retrieved July 13, 2023.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 June 2024, at 23:54
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