Angus MacQueen’s documentary The Legend of Shorty takes a look at the life of the infamous drug cartel leader El Chapo, but the film offers much more than a simple biography of the FBI’s public enemy number one. The filmmakers decided to instead display how easy it really is to find this man who has seemingly evaded custody for years after escaping prison. In doing so, they shine a light on how far reaching El Chapo’s power is, and how many people are in his pocket.
Through various interviews with people close to the man, the film begins to paint a very vivid picture of the elusive El Chapo as the filmmakers inch closer and closer to his location. Eventually, they’re given access to one of his residences and even allowed to interview his mother. The ease in which they are able to find and speak with these people is nothing short of astounding, considering how long El Chapo has been wanted by the police.
As we learn more about El Chapo’s business and his life, we also begin to see that the Mexican and U.S. governments always knew where he was, but for whatever reason, probably money, never actually went after him. This is an infuriating discovery considering how many lives he’s responsible for taking and how much unbridled power this man has over the drug trade. He moved billions of dollars worth of marijuana, cocaine, heroine, and just about every other drug one can think of from Mexico into the States, and controlled the vast majority of its distribution.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the film is the fact that El Chapo was finally brought to justice a mere three weeks before this film premiered at SXSW. While it could only be considered speculation, many believe authorities got wind of the documentary and decided to take action before the inevitable blowback occurred.
Either way, the film is presented in a darkly comedic way, with upbeat and goofy mariachi songs narrating and an overall light tone despite the horrific images we’re subjected to throughout. This could be likened to how The Act of Killing conveys its brutal content in a juxtaposed way. It worked quite well and I found myself nervously laughing way more than I expected I would.
Knowing very little about such a power and despicable human being, I found The Legend of Shorty to be a fascinating and sometimes jaw-dropping journey. The documentary itself is of the highest visual quality, and the tone and what the filmmakers set out to do set it apart from more typical talking head docs. At times, it’s difficult to watch and contains some horrifically graphic imagery, but it all felt necessary to understand just how evil this man is. The Legend of Shorty is absolutely not one to miss.