La Ley de Herodes (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

This film is also known as Herod's Law

Scoop's notes in white.


I getting quite an education on the quality of Mexican filmmaking in the past two years. I had no idea that there were so many good films, and so many great directors. Director Guillermo del Toro is a real up-and-comer; Alfonso Cuaron's Y tu Mama Tambien is rated 7.8 at IMDb; Alejandro Inarritu's Amores Perros is rated 8.2 (#164 of all time); and this film (dir: Luis Estrada) is currently rated 7.9. As part of its 14 nominations and 10 wins in the Ariels, La Ley de Herodes won the Best Picture award from the Mexican Academy in 2000. (Amores Perros won in 2001).

Note written in 2010, eight years after the original review:

Of the four Mexican directors I cited, Luis Estrada is the only one who has failed to become an international superstar.

  • Cuaron went to Hollywood, directed a Harry Potter film, then received broad acclaim for Children of Men, which is currently #190 of all time.

  • Del Toro went to Hollywood and did some Hellboy films. He cracked the IMDb Top 250 with Pan's Labyrinth, which is currently #70.

  • Innaritu's Babel earned him Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Picture.

Herod's Law is one of the most enjoyable comedies I've seen, and one of the best films you never heard of. It mixes laughter with serious political and sociological points, warmth, multi-dimensional characterization, brilliant concepts, and sharp cinematography. Since my Spanish is mediocre, I can't remember any other time when I was laughing out loud at the dialogue in a Spanish language film without reading the sub-titles. Good stuff.


  • Leticia Huijara - side of breasts and full rear nudity
  • Evangelina Sosa - breasts and buns
  • Maya Zapata, and Yari Lorenzo - breasts

It is set in 1949. The ruling PRI party is looking for a man to head up the tiny but troublesome town of San Pedro de los Saguaros. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure there is no such saint as St Peter of the Cacti.) The party bosses need a man who is ambitious, honest, loyal to the party, and  -  most important - not too bright, because this town really sucks. It consists of fewer than 100 people, about four of whom actually speak Spanish. Enter our hero, Juan Vargas, who has been supervising a local urban dump and jumps at the honor of becoming a mayor. He relishes the opportunity to bring modernity and social justice to his new subjects. He and his wife pack their best wardrobes into their Packard, and head off proudly to the new assignment, filled with dreams of glory and respect. They stop to ask for directions in the middle of nowhere, and are crestfallen to learn that the very same middle of nowhere happens to be their new town!

As time goes on, all of Juan's ideals fall by the wayside, and he learns to exploit the local populace like every mayor before him. In an interesting ending, Juan meets a dual fate - either he is beheaded by the local villagers and replaced by another Juan, who is a clone of the idealistic, eager fool Juan used to be - or he goes on to climb through the ranks and ends up President of Mexico. Because, after all, either THIS Juan rises to the top, or another one - they're all interchangeable in a corrupt system.

The best feature of the film is the choice of actors to play Juan, who seems so lovable and meek that we could never believe him capable of the horrible acts he eventually commits. He's so sweet and naive that we still sympathize with him no matter how bad his later misdeeds. The real power of that casting is that it underlines the central point: the blame for corruption falls not on evil men, but on a system which corrupts all men, even the sweetest, by forcing them to become cruel or fail.

Although Herod's Law is a comedy, and is really an entertainment film at heart, this movie was so influential in Mexico that many people said it contributed significantly to the electoral defeat of the PRI party in the 2000 elections, after 70 consecutive years in power.


This is the best new comedy I have seen in years. At once a story of the corruption of "everyman," a broad farce, a scathing political satire, and a source of some of the most entertaining sex scenes I have ever watched, this film is a total delight, even with subtitles. I see maybe ten films each year that I suggest to everyone I know, and this will be one of them.

A security guard at an essentially unused dump is made mayor of a small town with a history of killing its mayors. The ruling party hopes to keep the town quiet until the pending national elections. The new mayor is chosen by the big-wigs because he is too stupid and insignificant to cause any trouble. They seriously underestimated the man, who arrives eager and full of hopes for a brilliant future, only to find that the town is dirt poor, and most of the residents are Indian and speak no Spanish. He runs afoul of the local madam by refusing her bribe, and soon alienates the town doctor and the local padre. When he discovers that the town treasury is down to a whopping nine pesos, he heads off to the capital to ask for more cash. What he gets is a gun, and a penal code, and the admonition that, by properly using both, money won't be a problem.

He proves to be a quick study in the ways of corruption, and is soon taking graft, making whoopee with the tarts, and taxing everything and everyone. Unfortunately, he has to eliminate a few people along the way.

Roger Ebert awarded only two stars, finding fault with character development, but I felt the characters were nicely developed. Part of the genius of the film was casting Damián Alcázar in the lead. He was so likable that he retains audience sympathy even when he descends into evil behavior.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert did not like it (2/4)

  • It was nominated for 14 Ariels, winning 10, including Best Picture.

The People Vote ...

DVD info from Amazon

  • beautiful widescreen transfer. 1.85:1

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a B- (both reviewers). If you are Mexican - this is a must-view, although you've probably seen it already. If you speak Spanish, it's a terrific comedy. Even if you don't speak Spanish, this is a solid entertainment picture for anyone who can negotiate sub-titles. Even for those who usually find subtitles a chore, this one is worth the watch.

Return to the Movie House home page