Film-Forward Review: [CRONICAS]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

John Leguizamo as reporter Manolo Bonilla
Photo: Palm

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Directed & Written by: Sebastián Cordero.
Produced by: Alfonso Cuarón, Jorge Vergara, Guillermo Del Toro, Bertha Navarro & Isabel Dávalos.
Director of Photography: Enrique Chediak.
Edited by: Luis Carballar & Ivan Mora Manzano.
Music by: Antonio Pinto.
Released by: Palm.
Language: Spanish with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Equador/Mexico. 108 min. Rated: R.
With: John Leguizamo, Leonor Watling, Damián Alcázar & José Maria Yazpik.

Watching Cronicas can feel disturbing and at times downright unpleasant. In a story right out of the tabloids, a child sexual abuser murders his young victims and buries them in common graves, causing terror in a small Ecuadorian town. Manolo Bonilla (John Leguizamo), a popular and ambitious TV reporter, arrives from Miami to cover the "Monster of Babahoyo," as nicknamed by Manolo. After the funeral of two victims, a third child is accidentally run over by a local, Vinicio Cepeda (Damián Alcázar), a poor traveling salesman. The child's father and a mob assault Vinicio and try to set him on fire, but are prevented only by Manolo's intervention.

After being sent to jail, Vinicio tempts Manolo with information on the serial killer in exchange for a live story that he hopes will prove his innocence and set him free. Manolo, however, is convinced Vinicio is the monster, but wants an exclusive. This will result in the downfall of a reporter willing to hide the identity of a killer for the sake of his story and his career.

The flowing pace, which intertwines the main story line with subplots cleverly and almost seamlessly, help make what could have been a singularly clichéd story a harsh and vivid portrait of Latin America, its media and justice system. Cronicas also captures small details; for example, the difference in speech between Manolo, who switches from Spanish to English one sentence to the next, and Vinicio, who uses the formal Spanish "you" of the Hispanic provinces. And the excellent international cast gives the story the naturalism and immediacy needed to bring this squirm-producing thriller to life. Roxana M. Ramirez
July 8, 2005



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