From Palme d’Or-nominated director Pablo Trapero and starring one of the most recognisable faces in South American cinema, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes ), Carancho (2010) is a morality tale with a twisted noir mentality – an unconventional romance set against a repugnant and deeply disparaging depiction of Buenos Aires.
Sosa (Darin) is a disgraced lawyer who now spends his days traipsing through the corridors of A&E departments and local police stations in search of potential clients. In Argentina, well over 8,000 people are killed each year in traffic accidents and Sosa soon finds himself working amongst a group of thoroughly detestable solicitors who profit from a flourishing industry built on the huge insurance payouts which accompany these tragic events.
One night, whilst ironically chasing an ambulance, Sosa crosses paths with Lujan (Martina Gusman), a young paramedic recently arrived from the provinces with aspirations of becoming a doctor in one of the city’s bustling hospitals. Her worn-down and exhausted exterior masks a subtle underlying beauty which doesn’t go unnoticed by Sosa, a spark of romance igniting whilst they converse over a recent victim of yet another car crash. But how can their love blossom when she spends her nights saving the lives of the city’s injured, whilst at the same time he hunts them down for new clients?
Carancho begins with a ferocious pace that’s only matched by its climatic ending. Sadly though, what compromises the majority of the film’s middle act is that they fail to live up to the explosive scenes which bookend it. Like a concert set list, the film appears to be saving its best material for its intro and encore, whilst filling the vast gulf inbetween with little more than overly-familiar thriller set pieces.
This noticeable lag is moderately saved by the tremendous performances of Darin and Gusman, who whilst unable to recreate the sexual chemistry required of their characters, successfully bring us into their incredibly insular worlds. Darin in particular performs remarkably well, commendably navigating through the minefield of clichés which litter Sosa’s contrived journey of redemption.
The most problematic element of Carancho is the cursory detail it invests in the inescapable barriers which dooms the film’s central protagonist’s romance. A paramedic and an ambulance chaser thrust together amongst a society rife with corruption and depravity has all the ingredients necessary for both a powerful piece of social criticism and a heart-warming story about love against adversity. Sadly this genuinely intriguing narrative device is painfully underused and what we’re left with is simply a tense series of events built upon shallow foundations.
Disappointingly, Carancho’s early promise of being yet another dark, suspenseful and powerful film from Trapero (a director famous for combining visual flare with the ability to expose the grittier underbelly of corruption in Argentina) soon reveals itself to be little more than merely a suspenseful thriller – albeit a superbly well made one. Whilst Carancho remains a perfectly enjoyable experience, it’s difficult to ignore that it could easily have been a much more important piece of cinema.