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By James Teitelbaum | August 29, 2009

I am usually skeptical of people who wear too many hats during a film production, since a good actor is not necessarily a good director, and a good director is not necessarily a good writer, and a good writer is not necessarily a good actor. People who try to do all of these jobs usually have their time, energy, and creativity spread far too thinly to do any of the gigs effectively, or they may just not posses talent in one or more of these very diverse arts. In the case of El Segundo, it is Hank Jacobs who attempts to simultaneously wear the writer/director/star mantles. While Jacobs doesn’t necessarily excel in any of his three chosen tasks, he has managed to not completely fail at any of them either.

“El Segundo” begins with a voice-over, during which we are given a backstory about ancient artifacts in previous ages. One such artifact – a Mayan-looking animal’s head made of stone – is called El Segundo. After hurtling forth from an exploding sun, it lay at the bottom of the sea for millennia. Once recovered from the depths, El Segundo gives its owner limitless life and health for as long as the owner can tolerate such an existence.

Naturally, people want El Segundo, and naturally, a secret cabal guards its secret. When it is time for the current owner of El Segundo to pass it on, the next man in line is El Mayor (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.). El Mayor appears to be the head of a crime family, but we never see him or his heavies doing any crimes. They may just be a family of badasses for the sake of badassery. In due course, we are also introduced to a Texas oil worker named Sam (Jacobs). He is hired as a courier, and guess what his cargo is? Naturally, Sam finds himself in a world of trouble. His first job begins with an abandoned shack in the desert, and ends with mystical visions and a dead partner. While making amends for his failure, he meets the brain-meltingly gorgeous Delicia (Alana De La Garza), the daughter of El Mayor. You and I know that getting involved with the boss’s kid is never a good idea, but Sam has to find this out the hard way.

As Sam and Delicia fall for each other, gringo Sam tries to ingratiate himself into Delicia’s Mexican community. Meanwhile, El Mayor undergoes some creepy rituals in order to get on El Segundo’s good side. Most of the people who have gazed at the artifact see a golden Pulp Fiction-ish glow coming from within a satchel. They all go mad and end up shooting themselves. So, the man passing El Segundo on to El Mayor has to make sure the recipient is well-prepared.

This section of the film drags quite a bit (and I am not sure that power chord slo-metal music is the right soundtrack choice for a Mayan ritual), but it picks up a little bit after one person haplessly manages to ruin both El Mayor’s ritual and Sam’s chances to continue bonking the hottest girl in Texas. Having been blamed for both of these mishaps, Sam goes on the lam and meets a wine guzzling shaman, all while trying to get back on El Mayor’s good side and back into Delicia’s bed.

As low-budget indie Tex-Mex mystical adventure films go (and really this is a booming genre, right?), “El Segundo” is at least modestly entertaining. Jacobs seems to have done a fine enough job juggling so many tasks, but the editing could use some help. The pacing is a bit uneven and drags in a lot of places. Turns out that Jacobs had at least four helpers in the editing room, so perhaps this was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen – as opposed to, perhaps, not enough help in other aspects of the production process.

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