Five weeks before Cartel was scheduled to start shooting in Mexico City, Universal pulls the plug and shuts down the production. Josh Brolin was set to star in the film and Asger Leth was attached to direct.
Apparently there were concerns about the budget, the script, and the complexities of shooting a drug-related drama on location in Mexico. Here is the statement made by Universal,
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment ceased pre-production of Cartel today. As much as we had hoped to begin filming this spring in Mexico City, the studio and its producing partners did not feel it was creatively ready to move forward under the timetable and budget we had established. We thank all of the filmmakers, cast and crew for their work during pre-production.
The film was originally inspired by the Italian film La scorta, featuring a security detail protecting a prosecutor targeting the mob. The script was then turned into a tale of a man out to protect his son after his wife is murdered by a Mexican drug cartel.
Universal’s films haven’t been doing too well lately. Both Green Zone and Repo Men failed at the box-office, and I think Universal is playing it safe. They obviously don’t think Cartel will make them any money, which is why they shut it down. There goes what could have been a great film. Instead, we’re going to get a bunch of remakes and movies based off of board games.
It seems like Cartel didn’t have to be a big budget movie, it's a story I think they could have done on the cheap, but of course they wanted to spend more money on it than they had to, which led them to eventually killing it.