Mixed or average reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 20
  2. Negative: 1 out of 20
  1. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    Jun 12, 2014
    Heli is a stunning piece of filmmaking. It's a hypnotic, starkly beautiful, often disturbing drama that puts a working-class Mexican family in the cross hairs of its country's drug war.
  2. Reviewed by: Michael Atkinson
    Jun 10, 2014
    A dead-eyed, lyrical art film that kicks you in the throat.
  3. Reviewed by: Dave Calhoun
    May 22, 2013
    If Heli lacks enough focus and thematic clarity to make it properly special, it's still winningly provocative and always compelling.
  4. Reviewed by: Catherine Shoard
    May 22, 2013
    The film functions as clammy thriller as well as poetic agitprop.
  5. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    May 29, 2014
    By film’s end, everyone has been transformed for the worst. Heli is a troubling and upsetting picture, a portrait of a broken country that seems to be beyond repair and a depiction of how violence and corruption, when left unchecked, taints saints and sinners alike, sparing no one.
  6. Reviewed by: Ben Kenigsberg
    Jun 18, 2014
    The movie maintains a relentless grip all the same. Unlike the junior kingpins who bear witness to the film’s big blaze, audiences won’t watch in a passive state.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe McGovern
    Jun 12, 2014
    The film’s nihilism serves as a metaphor for the merciless death pit of Mexico’s drug war, but not much else.
  8. Reviewed by: Kevin Jagernauth
    May 22, 2013
    Heli is a despairing, bleak watch. It's a slow, but unrelenting look at one young man's punishing loss of innocence amongst a society that has already decayed beyond understanding.
  9. Reviewed by: Tomas Hachard
    Jun 9, 2014
    The emotional and political point through all this isn't to be taken lightly, but because the entirety of the film has such a nihilistic temperament, its effect is muted.
  10. Reviewed by: Ben Nicholson
    May 21, 2014
    Shock and awe are both present - as is Escalante's intense style - but Heli lacks the ideas or formal dexterity to constitute a state of the nation address in any but the most cursory of ways.
  11. Reviewed by: Robbie Collin
    May 22, 2013
    Throughout the film [Escalante's] camera tends to be lurking in the middle distance; coolly observing everything that passes through its inquisitive frame, leaving the messy business of reaction to us.
  12. Reviewed by: Guy Lodge
    Jun 10, 2014
    Heli executes its shocks with sleek, gasp-inducing effectiveness, but neither its politics, nor its shifts in physical perspective, ever surprise or disorientate us.
  13. Reviewed by: Randy Cordova
    Jul 11, 2014
    Writer-director Amat Escalante was named best director at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for this project, and although it obviously is made with some skill, it also is unrelentingly dire.
  14. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Jun 12, 2014
    Heli, which won the directing prize in Cannes last year, is at once extreme and unspectacular, a grisly and lurid slice-of-life drama.
  15. Reviewed by: Mike D'Angelo
    Jun 10, 2014
    The problem with Heli is that “hard to watch” is its sole characteristic.
  16. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    May 22, 2013
    An accomplished but singularly unpleasant immersion in Mexico's vicious cycle of drug-fueled violence.
  17. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Jun 12, 2014
    The main talking point of this empty-headed thriller from Mexican director Amat Escalante is a sure-to-be-notorious instance of penis incineration — a dubious distinction.
  18. Reviewed by: Andrew Osmond
    May 19, 2014
    Grim and gritty. Warning: contains punishing scenes of testicle burning.
  19. Reviewed by: Stephen Dalton
    May 22, 2013
    Heli is undoubtedly made with serious intent, but it is also relentlessly depressing and curiously uninvolving.
  20. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Jun 11, 2014
    The real unflinching truth is that an average newspaper reporter can do a more artful, compassionate job with a drug-war story than this movie does.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 5 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Aug 27, 2014
    A powerful Mexican drama that, although very well made, is not particularly likeable entertainment. It tells of an impoverished Mexican familyA powerful Mexican drama that, although very well made, is not particularly likeable entertainment. It tells of an impoverished Mexican family unwittingly drawn into the region's drug wars due to the sister's involvement with a young and naïve police cadet. The film captures the milieu of poverty drugs and corruption unerringly well and has no problem registering strong responses and emotions. It also has a clinical matter of fact approach to violence which is demonstrated in two or three scenes that are shocking in there casualness. Ultimately, this is one hell of a cautionary tale directed with assured confidence that underlines just how suddenly lives can spiral out of control, in this case, due to the actions of others. Full Review »
  2. Jul 3, 2014
    An independent Mexican crime-drama. It was chosen to represent the country in the 86th academy awards. The story of a brother and sister. TheAn independent Mexican crime-drama. It was chosen to represent the country in the 86th academy awards. The story of a brother and sister. The responsibility of the brother was showcased when his family was torn by outraged men belong to the drug trafficking. Just another side story of the movie 'Trade' between a family, law and brutal world.

    In a small desert town, Heli, in his 20s lives with his dad and a teen sister Estela. He's married and has a little baby. He and his dad work for the same automobile factory while his sister is at school. An army camp is held for nearby their village. Estela's secret relationship and army's raid on drug dealers, all these lead to get involved in an affair for this little family. The corrupted law is not an option to rely so Heli must stand his own and fight. The world he's after is not for a person like him, he had left no choice other than going for it.

    It was a good movie in the aspect of exhibiting the contests. The synopsis says, it is a heroic movie. Heli won't just go into the underworld and smack everyone down. The presentation was in realistic approach. A very well told story with limited characters and dialogues. Yes the movie talks less and displays more, but not completely. Leaves many unsolved mysteries, though it makes you sure you understand without showing the other side of the narration. It's better as now than revealing everything because it could have been lots of violence. A couple of scenes were raw and violent. A bit disturbing as well.

    The problem with this movie was the rest of the world received it well, but the natives did not. The reason is the country was portrayed in the bad shade. Like the one we always see in the Hollywood movies which denoted how dangerous is their neighbor. The flaw and the misuse in the law enforcement, especially people from isolated place had to face their problem by themselves. So Mexico's not the only one to have issues like this, but many other parts of the world do. The filmmaker hailed from there so he did this. Remember this movie is better compared to 'Trade' which was more disturbing. In the end, both these movies were not neglectable, because of the plot it showcase was one of the actual crimes that happens everywhere.
    Full Review »