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DVD Review: Crónicas

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Crónicas (Chronicles) a suspense thriller, in Spanish with English subtitles, takes place in an underdeveloped region of the Republic of Ecuador. John Leguizamo plays star reporter Manolo Bonilla, who has earned a reputation for his in-your-face approach. Manolo headlines a popular Latin America news broadcast in Miami called Una hora con la Verdad (One Hour with the Truth).

Manolo and his crew, Marisa – his producer – (played by Leonor Watling) and – his cameraman – Ivan (played by José María Yazpik) are in the Republic of Ecuador, reporting about “El Monstruo de Babahoyo (the Monster of Babahoyo), a serial killer and pedophile who has raped and killed 9 children. While Manolo and his crew are filming one of the murdered children’s funeral, an unfortunate and sudden event, shifts the town’s attention on Vinicio Cepeda, (played by Damian Alcazar) a mild-mannered local, who accidentally runs over the surviving twin of the deceased child, whose funeral has just taken place.

This unexpected tragedy triggers the suppressed feelings of frustration of a town already besieged by an atrocious killer. In a barbaric rage, a mob of people try to lynch Vinicio at the site of the accident. As the masses pound, hit, kick and soak Vinicio in gasoline, Manolo, (while ordering Ivan to film all the action) manages to put an end to Vinicio’s lynching before it’s too late. All this happens within the first 13 minutes of the film. I must warn you that these scenes are crude and that they set the tone of the film’s cinematography.

Vinicio is incarcerated for the accident, alongside the children’s father, who is in turn incarcerated for trying to kill Vinicio. Manolo’s deed of saving Vinicio is the first of a series of actions that begin to reveal his true character, which will be questioned several times throughout the film.

Manolo and his crew decide to make one last visit to the town jail in order to take some final footage before leaving to their next assignment in Medellin, Colombia. Vinicio approaches Manolo and asks for his help in getting him out of prison. Vinicio asks Manolo to interview him for his program, so as to get international attention to the circumstances of his imprisonment.

Manolo, sees no point in interviewing Vinicio but something Vinicio tells him, makes him change his mind. Vinicio tells Manolo that he has information about the Monster from Babahoyo. Manolo seizes the opportunity. While trying to obtain the exclusive about the Monster of Babahoyo, he unleashes a chain of unstoppable events that will eventually take its toll on the innocent.

Manolo will have to choose between what he wants for himself and what he is supposed to do for the sake of the people of Babahoyo. Coincidentally John Leguizamo’s character, Manolo Bonilla, reflects on current events such as Judith Millers’ involvement in the Plame affair.

The promotional emphasis of the movie is placed on John Leguizamo because of his notoriety in comparison to the rest of the cast. Nonetheless, the character that captured my attention was Vinicio Cepeda, the mild-mannered, bible salesman, who holds the key to the Monster of Babahoyo. Damian Alcazar’s portrayal of Vinicio Cepeda was captivating and intriguing. I would have liked to learn more of Vincio throughout the movie.

Even though Crónicas is intended to be suspense thriller, it has moments where it goes flat. Crónicas airs for 1:34 minutes and although it becomes predictable early on, the writer toys with some possible angles that keep you watching until the very end. Crónicas’ storyline and its exotic location makes it a movie that shouldn’t be missed.

The DVD will be released in stores starting on November 8th and it will be packed with special features such as:
• shocking alternate ending;
• director commentary track;
• Making of featurette;
• Soledad recording session;
• Deleted scenes;
• Still photo gallery;
• 5.1 Surround Sound;
• US theatrical trailer;
• Previews;
• Web links.

Crónicas is the official Oscar selection from Ecuador in the Best Foreign Language Category. Crónicas has been recognized with the Un Certain Regard of the Cannes Int’l Film Festival; with the Official Selection of Toronto Int’l Film Festival; with the Official Selection of Sundance Film Festival and as the Winner of the San Sebastian Int’l Film Festival. Palm Pictures 2004.

With All Due Respect...

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