Miss Bala really should be named Miss Baja, the pageant that takes place during Gerardo Naranjo’s Mexican action flick. Stephanie Sigman stars as an aspiring beauty queen who’s abducted by a vicious drug gang. Watch the trailer below

After a gunfight breaks out in a Tijuana disco, Laura (Sigman) tries to find her girlfriend. Instead, she’s grabbed by La Estrella, headed by Lino Valdez (Noe Hernandez). Laura’s immediately put to use. She drives a booby-trapped car and later, taped with cash to her belly, crosses the border and makes a pickup of guns and ammo. Lino is sweet on Laura and makes sure she gets a spot in the Miss Baja contest. When she wins, Laura’s not impressed; she’s strictly fighting for her life from the opening scene until the very end.

The deadly drug war takes its toll with a huge body count. Naranjo doesn’t pick sides; rather, he simply depicts the brutality and carnage that continue to devastate Mexico. The film’s based on a real events that happened in Sinoloa in 2007. It also incorporates the 1985 killing of DEA agent Kiki Camarena. (In Miss Bala, he’s known as Kiki Camara.)

Laura’s accidental journey into the dark heart of Mexican-American politics is harrowing. Using guile and guts to protect herself, newcomer Sigmond carries Laura’s heavy load with aplomb

Naranjo’s technique is both jarring and riveting. Many of the scenes use first-person camera, slowing panning out from Laura’s point-of-view. She’s beaten down and bruised but manages to survive, just like another drug-war victim, Billy Hayes, in Midnight Express.

Miss Bala is currently playing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Boston.