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'Kingdom of Shadows' offers disparate views of drug war but no cohesive portrait

'Kingdom of Shadows' offers disparate views of drug war but no cohesive portrait
Oscar Hagelsieb in "Kingdom Of Shadows." (Participant Media)

Exploring the drug war waged on both sides of the United States-Mexico border, the documentary "Kingdom of Shadows" provides three disparate perspectives from those who have been on the front lines: Sister Consuelo Morales, the 67-year-old Roman Catholic nun in Monterrey, Mexico, who advocates for family members of the tens of thousands missing; Oscar Hagelsieb, the El Paso-based U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement assistant special agent in charge; and Don Henry Ford Jr., a Texas cowboy and convicted drug smuggler.

Morales — whom The Times profiled in 2011 — and a masked member of the Zetas gang both provide tangible and graphic details of the widespread terror and malversation.

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Ford's conviction dates back to before the implementation of mandatory sentencing, so he can only attest to how poverty drives people into the narcotics trade. The brazenness of the cartels and the rampant corruption of Mexican law enforcement are by now notorious. But director Bernardo Ruiz never manages to weave the multiple narratives into a complex but cohesive big picture as Steven Soderbergh did with the 2000 feature film "Traffic."

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"Kingdom of Shadows."

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing violent images and descriptions.

Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes.

Playing: At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena. Also on VOD.

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