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Two men sit together beside their horses, the West Texas sun smoldering in their cowboy hats. One asks the other to make sure his body, if he dies, finds its way home to Mexico, to his wife and children. “I’ll die first. I’m older than you,” his friend responds, but nevertheless, a promise is made.
Much too soon, it is also kept.
“The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” screening this week at UNM-LA, Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) makes a long, reckless and probably insane journey to Jimenez, Mexico, to deliver his friend Melquiades Estrada’s body to his family.
He crosses treacherous ridges and navigates across miles of sprawling, nearly uninhabited desert plateaus, a difficult enough journey for any man on horseback, let alone one toting the dead body of his friend – and the angry, violent, defiantly alive body of the man who killed him.
For several reasons, the man who murdered Estrada was never charged with the murder. But even if he had been, it’s likely police and border patrol officers wouldn’t approve of Perkins doling out punishment in the Chihuahuan Desert.
They’re after him, ready to rescue the killer and arrest the good friend who couldn’t let Estrada’s final resting place overlook an American football field.
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