Herod's Law

Herod's Law (original Spanish title La ley de Herodes) is a 1999 Mexican satirical black comedy political film produced by Bandidos Films; it's a political satire of corruption in Mexico and the long-ruling PRI party (notably the first Mexican film to criticize the PRI explicitly by name[1] and carried some controversy and interference from the Mexican government because of it).[2] The film won the Ariel Award for Best Picture from the Mexican Academy of Film. It was also awarded the Special Jury Prize in Latin American Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival.

Herod's Law
La Ley De Herodes (Herod's Law) 1999 Mexican film DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byLuis Estrada
Produced byLuis Estrada
Written byLuis Estrada
StarringDamián Alcázar
Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
Delia Casanova
Juan Carlos Colombo
Alex Cox
Music bySantiago Ojeda
CinematographyNorman Christianson
Edited byLuis Estrada
Distributed byArtecinema, Venevision International
Release date
November 9, 1999
Running time
120 min


After the mayor of the fictional village San Pedro de los Saguaros is lynched by angry villagers, a petty PRI party member named Juan Vargas (Damián Alcázar) is appointed temporary mayor by the state governor. At first, the new mayor attempts to do good, but a lack of funds, the fact that the majority of the villagers don't speak Spanish, and the opposition of both the local doctor (an obstreperous PAN mayoral candidate) and Doña Lupe (the brothel owner) cripple his efforts. Seeking help from his superior, López, the secretary to the PRI governor, he is given a copy of the constitution of Mexico and a revolver and is told that the only law is Herod's law: literally translated: "either you get screwed or you get fucked" ("o te chingas o te jodes"). On his way back, he meets a caucasian American on the road when his car breaks down; the American looks under the hood, reconnects a wire and then asks Vargas for hundreds of dollars. He says that he is the mayor of San Pedro and that he is good for the money, then laughing it off as he drives away. Returning to the town, a bribe from Doña Lupe sets him on the path to corruption.

When Vargas thus has become the executive, legislature and judiciary of the village all in one person he soon becomes corrupt, first accepting the bribes from Doña Lupe (which he extends into paying free visits to the brothel's girls), and soon moving on to extort the local store owner and all of the villagers for even the smallest infractions. When questioned, he declares that he is funding a new project to bring electricity to the village with the help of an American engineer (in reality, the American he met earlier, having shown up in San Pedro wanting his money)—a farce which is obvious when only one utility pole is raised; still, the villagers are oblivious to this, except for the doctor. Vargas becomes progressively more corrupt, and when Doña Lupe's new bodyguard severely beats him after she resists his authoritarianism, he kills them both in retaliation. He incriminates Filemón, the local drunk, for the crime, and on the way to deliver him to the state's authorities he kills Filemón in the middle of the road. When he returns to the town, he discovers that his wife (not blind about his visits to the brothel) and the American are having an affair, and the American flees. Meanwhile, Vargas levies false accusations against the local doctor, assigning him the role of intellectual author in Doña Lupe's murder; nonetheless, it is also revealed that the doctor has been sexually abusing the teenage girl that serves as his maid, and Vargas uses this to blackmail him into leaving the town or face incarceration. Having gotten rid of his enemies, Vargas becomes obsessed with power to the point where the whole town despises him, levying absurd taxes for everything, incarcerating those who refuse to pay, seizing their possessions (including animals), and rewriting several laws to his own absurd and tyrannical whims.

It is in the middle of this that López and his henchman, Tiburón, arrive to San Pedro, on the run after López's men tried to shoot his rival for the governorship of the state, who is also president Alemán's nephew. Seeing that the town had riches after all, López demands all the money Vargas has extorted from the villagers. Discovering that his wife has escaped with the American, taking all of the fortune with them, Vargas grows enraged and kills both López and Tiburón. Then, Vargas seems to meet his demise when he is surrounded by a crowd of torch-wielding villagers, but unlike the previous mayor, he avoids this fate by climbing up the sole pole he raised, and is saved when several police cars arrive, hot on the trail of López. Vargas reappears at the very end of the film delivering a speech to the Mexican National Congress, a spot he earned as a prize for killing López. As Vargas says in his speech that the PRI must stay in power forever, the film cuts to the scene of a new mayor coming to San Pedro de los Saguaros in exactly the same way that Vargas did at the beginning.


DVD editionEdit

This movie was released in Region 1 by 20th Century Fox and Venevision Intl. under the banner Cinema Latino in 2004; right now, this edition is out of print.

A second edition was released in 2006 by Warner Home Video with Fernando Sariñana's Todo el poder


  1. ^ Crow, Jonathan. "La Ley de Herodes (2000) - Luis Estrada | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie (synopsis). All Media Network. Retrieved July 1, 2016. The first film to criticize the PRI by name...
  2. ^ "La ley de Herodes (1999) - Trivia". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved July 1, 2016. The movie release was forbidden for several years. Since filming started, the Mexican government wasn't very happy about it; mainly because it showed a bad image of that administration.

External linksEdit