Friday April 24, 1998
The phrase appended to the title, "Los Locos: Posse Rides Again," is a bit of a cheat: "Los Locos" isn't actually a sequel to the 1993 "Posse," in which director-star Mario Van Peebles rode tall as the leader of a mostly black outlaw gang in the Old West, defending a frontier settlement of freed slaves from the Klan and an evil would-be railroad tycoon.
"Posse" mixed elements of black history with second-hand spaghetti western flourishes, and it was a satisfying B-action picture, with a large cast of skilled performers familiar from TV and "blaxploitation" films and from the rap music scene. "Los Locos" is a much more modest shoot-'em-up: predictable, sparsely populated, almost instantly forgettable.
Van Peebles is the only actor the two films have in common, and he portrays an unrelated character, a cashiered U.S. Army scout named Chance, who staggers into the movie wearing a fresh crust of tar and feathers. He's taken in and cleaned up by a beefy thug of a nun, Sister Drexel (Rusty Schwimmer), a standard anti-Catholic stereotype, who runs a snake-pit lunatic asylum in the desert.
Within minutes, it seems (perhaps it's just wishful thinking), the surly sister gets plugged right between the eyes, and Chance has become the reluctant guardian of a mixed assortment of crowd-pleasing mental patients, herding them across the trackless waste, never more than a jump or two ahead of a gang of leering Mexican bandidos.
"Los Locos" ("The Crazies"), edited and directed bluntly by Jean-Marc Vallee, doesn't take the mental afflictions of its characters seriously, not even for a split second. The principal loco, played by the versatile character actor Rene Auberjonois (shape-shifter Odo on TV's "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"), is an autistic adult known only as Presidente, who has all the standard Rainman vocal quirks and cringing body language.
Presidente is a mathematical savant, of course, like the autistic boy in "Mercury Rising," and a mean frontier poker player. In a pinch he can sling a gun with the best of them. Like all of Chance's charges, he's whatever the plot requires him to be from one sequence to the next.
"Los Locos" is a very thin bowl of gruel, without any nourishing meaty chunks to speak of. But it isn't quite a total loss. Van Peebles is a relaxed and engaging leading man here, liberated from the expressive paralysis of his glum avenger role in "Posse," and he has some companionable moments splashing around in a big old tin bathtub with the only loca in the gang, Melora Walters' giddy Allison.
Los Locos: Posse Rides Again, 1998. R, for violence, sexuality and language. Polygram Filmed Entertainment presents a Volcanic Films/Van Peebles Films production. Director-editor Jean-Marc Valle. Producer-writer Mario Van Peebles. Line producer Mark McNair. Executive producer Alan Poul. Director of photography Pierre Gill. Costume designer Thomas S. Dawson. Music Lesley Barber. Production designer Greta Grigorian. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. Mario Van Peebles as Chance. Melora Walters as Allison. Paul Lazar as Buck. Rene Auberjonois as Presidente. Rusty Schwimmer as Sister Drexel.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times