18 With A Bullet, BBC3

by | Apr 4, 2005 | All, Reviews

What was it all about?

A sober profile of the 18 gang who control much of the El Salvadorian capital San Salvador.

What to say if you liked it

An enlightening insight into the twilight existences of dispossessed teenagers on the streets of the third world.

What to say if you didn’t like it

A shameful voyeuristic gaze into an alien world that is ruled by a precept of high television ratings – violence.

What was good about it?

• The objective narrative that didn’t seek to pass judgement on district leader Charlie and the rest of his mob, and as a result projected a truthful perspective of life on the San Salvadorian streets.

• Chiwetel Ejiofor’s sombre, sparse commentary that didn’t intrude unless absolutely necessary.

What was bad about it?

• Even though the protagonists – Charlie and his numerous henchmen – were mainly abandoned by their parents at a young age, they did little to evoke much more sympathy with their acts of violence and intimidation and as such viewing did little more than provoke a seething annoyance at their deviant behaviour.

• The 18 gang indulged in that most puerile of juvenile rites of passage – a large tattoo – to prove their allegiance to the gang.

• The 18 gang were like teenage toddlers, all full of infantile spite with the main distinction being that toddlers rarely have access to firearms.

• At the three funerals for 18 members shot by rival gang MS, the mourners conducted their grief with the global mobsters’ typically righteous attitude of being wronged and that their deceased comrade would “be at God’s right hand”. The only moment gangsters are at God’s right hand are as he slaps them down to Hell.

• That the gang seemed to relish the death of their comrades as plotting and carrying out petty revenge shootings shot a bolt of sunlight into their dim, uneventful lives.

• The 18 gang all fought for “the cause” with the same myopic dogmatism of a medieval crusader, but when asked why the MS were their foe Charlie replied: “Because they are.”

• Because the 18 gang lead such parochial lives, the documentary soon became a repetitive whirlpool of beatings, extortion and funerals.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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