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Review: '¿Es el Chapo?’ delivers conspiracy theories but little else

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman led the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel and supposedly was linked to thousands of deaths before his arrest in February. The new documentary film “¿Es el Chapo?” speculates that Guzman would not have surrendered so easily — without the security blanket of hundreds of armed guards or without any kind of a fight when cornered. Mexican authorities either apprehended an imposter, the film’s thesis goes, or negotiated Guzman’s surrender.

With drug gangs suspected to be linked to the recent disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, the timely subject matter of “¿Es el Chapo?” would make a fascinating “60 Minutes” segment or even an astonishing documentary in more skilled hands.

Filmmaker Charlie Minn spends so much time polling random men and women on the street to see if they believe Guzman has really been caught. Many regard Guzman as some sort of Robin Hood-like folk hero who created jobs, but Minn never follows up by asking what kind of jobs Guzman created.

Instead, he runs around with a microphone in hand like an if-it-bleeds-it-leads ambulance chaser, playing out that local news reporter stereotype often spoofed in mockumentaries.

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Only the contextual exposition provided by a few journalists — most memorably Diana Washington Valdez of the El Paso Times and Francisco Cuamea of Noroeste — substantively alleges political corruption within Mexico and the United States. But those efforts take a backseat to the film’s unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

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“¿Es el Chapo?”

MPAA rating: None

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Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Edwards South Gate Stadium 20


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