Sunday, February 19, 2012

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Release date May 6, 2010.
Running time 1 hour 47 minutes.
Spanish w/English subtitles.

Argentinian film noir about an unscrupulous ambulance chaser, played by Ricardo Darín, involved in an organized scheme to bilk car accident victims out of their insurance money. Buenos Aires has one of the highest vehicular mortality rates in the world, and there are is a mafia within the judicial system set up to take advantage of the carnage. Darín is a lawyer who's had his license revoked for some unknown malfeasance, but is waiting for the time when the ban is lifted so he can go on working in the light of day. While he's not out chasing victims, he's duping the desperate into faking accidents in lieu of a cash payout. During one of his set-ups he meets the beguiling Luján, who is paying her dues the hard way as a doctor in a two-man ambulance crew riding along the gritty streets of the city. Things begin to go awry when he falls in love with her.

The problem with our protagonist is two-fold. He owes the people he works for money. He never seems capable of repaying the debt in full because while they are double-crossing their clients, he is double-crossing them right back by taking the client's money and not divvying it up properly with his superiors. For this he occasionally gets his ass kicked by the collector's henchmen. He also makes the mistake of telling his boss that he's going to quit soon. Not the right move telling your sleazy, slovenly boss you are considering leaving and thus becoming his biggest and most competent competitor for accident cases.

This film is far from perfect. The ending is unsatisfactory and the female protagonist, initially a strong figure in all this madness, is reduced to a blubbering mass of stereotypical female weakness. This turn was a bad move on the part of the director, especially since she had already exhibited serious problems as a closet addict. But Latin cinema needs films like this to grow and progress. There is a lot of untapped creativity in Latin America, and this film is as entertaining as anything that's being produced by their better financed North American counterparts, who despite tons of money have shown themselves to be stuck in a quagmire of mediocrity that is unparalleled in the history of cinema.

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