Black bull, no kidding—however you may settle in, with Toro Negro, for yet another placid, Salvation Army doc well-meaningly directing us toward a middle-class respect for poor third-worlders, you end up on the scary, decaying lip of civilization. The milieu is Yucatán bullfighting, which is to the Madrid variety what the most wretched Central American midget-league baseball is to the arena of Derek Jeter: overgrown weeds, moonshine in mason jars, cardboard houses, wounds without doctors. Quickly, though, the video doc becomes a character study of one Fernando Pacheco, nicknamed El Suicida, and at first blush a skinny, crazy Indian kid with a wired smile and possessed eyes whose professional strategy amounts to letting the bull virtually kill him before he’s dragged off, slapped awake and tossed back in with a fresh animal. But Pacheco is also a maniacal alcoholic and unapologetic wife beater—the face-offs in the bullring are chilling, but the domestic violence, captured on camera, is far worse. As his story emerges—rape, assault, manslaughter, prison, and torrential self- destruction—it becomes clear that Pacheco is some kind of sociopath, and the movie evolves into a monstrous portrait of economic annihilation on the outskirts of the global village.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 21, 2006