Gael García Bernal stars as Cassandro, a gay wrestler who became an unlikely star in Mexico. This true story is a big crowd pleaser.

REASON: A gay amateur wrestler in El Paso reinvents himself as an “exotic” wrestler named Cassandro and becomes an unlikely star.

REVIEW: Cassandro is based on an unlikely but very cool true story. Gael Garcia Bernal player Saúl Armendáriz, a struggling amateur luchador who reinvented himself as a flamboyant wrestler named Cassandro. He was an “exotico”, which was a stereotypical class of gay wrestler typically torn down to the delight of homophobic audiences. But Cassandro was different. His winning personality and physical prowess won over his audience and he became something almost unheard of in Mexico, an exotic who won fights.

It’s an excellent role for Bernal, who gets a juicy role to sink his teeth into. The character allows him to show off his flair for comedy, his psychic prowess in the well-choreographed wrestling scenes and, at times, heartfelt poignancy. Much of the film centers on Saúl’s relationship with his supportive mother, Yocasta, played by an affecting Perla de la Rosa. His dreams of wealth exist primarily so that he can buy his mother a modest house in El Paso. Yet he’s not ridiculously idealized either, where he’s shown to be headstrong and reckless, to the point of going on a coke and booze the night before the biggest fight of his career. He has a self-destructive side where he enters into a one-sided relationship with a married wrestler (Raul Castillo) who he wants to leave his family.

Nevertheless, you remain firmly on Cassandra’s side throughout. While the homophobia of the wrestling world is acknowledged, it is not dwelled on either. Cassandro actually meets a bunch of people who you expect to turn out to be red herrings, but who end up being decent. His crooked promoter, Lorenzo (Joaquín Cosío) is presented sympathetically, and his coke dealer, played by Bad Bunny (future) El Muerto) in a small role, is ultimately also shown to be a relatively nice, non-homophobic guy.

Best of all, Roberta Colindrez is a female wrestler who trains Cassandro and takes him under her wing, becoming his most loyal friend. If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ll get a kick out of the way big matches are replayed, especially the last big match with the legendary wrestler “The Son of Santo”. Director Roger Ross Williams makes his narrative debut with this, and it’s a confident, energetic showcase. Clocking in at 100 minutes, the film has energy to burn and Bernal is excellent in the title role. This one is set for a Prime Video debut and should be a crowd pleaser. In a nod to authenticity, the film is shot in a mix of English and Spanish. At the same time, Williams uses the now-trendy 1:33:1 aspect ratio, which allows him to seamlessly blend video sequences meant to evoke Cassandro’s telecasts with the rest of the film.

If you are a wrestling aficionado, Cassandro is definitely worth checking out. The cast is great and the movie is a lot of fun. It has laughs, some action and a big heart underneath it all that will make you run to YouTube to find actual videos of the real Cassandro. He will not disappoint.

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