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DVD Review: ‘Carancho’ (‘The Vulture’)

★★★★☆

Pablo Trapero’s thrilling Argentinian crime drama Carancho (The Vulture, 2010) is an intelligently-rendered, complex morality tale set in the seedy nocturnal back-alleys of Buenos Aires. Newly released on DVD, the film stars Ricardo Darín, last seen on UK shores in the Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes, and the hugely talented Martina Gusman.

Sosa (Darín) works as an ‘ambulance-chaser’, a ‘Vulture’ who preys upon the vulnerable to extract personal injury claims, leaving the injured party with almost nothing. One night, Sosa encounters the young, idealistic doctor Lujan (Gusman), who is plagued by her own issues with drug abuse. This unlikely couple form a romantic relationship, however, caught between both their personal problems and Sosa’s turbulent and mysterious past, that love is threatened from all angles.

With Carancho, director Trapero has given us a tremendously enjoyable thriller which draws on film noir traditions to create a deeply atmospheric world in which his well-developed and morally complex characters are placed. Most of the film’s action takes place upon the dangerous roads of Argentina’s capital city, creating a distinctly remote atmosphere of alienation – the perfect canvas for the dislocated characters.

Sosa’s ‘Vulture’ inspires both repugnance for his despicable lack of morality, and yet amiability, undoubtedly part-due to the leonine charm of Darín. Equally impressive is Gusman, who successfully captures the conflict of a young, caring doctor whose only relief from her high-pressure job is her drug abuse. The chemistry between the two leads is one of the greatest strengths of Trapero’s feature, Argentina’s official submission for the 83rd Academy Awards.

The plot does have its weaknesses, losing pace towards the second act, yet the high calibre performances and well-written central characters ensure that Carancho is able to recover from its occasional wobbles. A number of well-placed individual vignettes also help to cement the themes of the overall plot. For Sosa, this involves a series of roadside consultations where he happily exploits the injured and poor, whereas Lujan must deal with fights breaking out in the hospital in which she works, or crying alone in the staff toilets.

Trapero Carancho is a thrilling noirish drama that explores a rarely-glimpsed, nocturnal aspect of Argentinian society through some well-crafted and captivating characters.

Joe Walsh