Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Leguizamo, Damián Alcazar, Leonor Watling, Jose Maria Yazpik, Alfred Molina, Camilo Luzuriaga
Written by: Sebastián Cordero
Directed by: Sebastián Cordero
MPAA Rating: R for violence, a scene of sexuality, and language
Language: English and Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 108
Date: 05/16/2004

Crónicas (2004)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Minority Reporter

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Land of the Dead) has never been better than he is here as Manolo Bonilla, a TV reporter who spends most of his time looking for a child molester/murderer dubbed the "Monster."

Along with his sexy producer Marisa (Leonor Watlin) and his laid-back cameraman Ivan (Jose Maria Yazpik), he arrives in Ecuador to cover the funeral of one of the Monster's victims. During the confusion, the deceased boy's twin brother is knocked over by a car and killed. The driver, Vinicio (Damian Alcazar), is arrested and strikes a bargain with Manolo; in exchange for help, he will tell everything he knows about the Monster.

Rookie writer/director Sebastián Cordero lays everything out with realism and clarity. It often feels like a news report, but without that shaky camera look that so many other filmmakers would have opted for. Cordero very rarely errs in his choice of shots; even in dialogue-heavy sequences -- such as interviews -- he photographs and edits for maximum emotional and visual energy. His camera constantly searches for off-kilter angles and pockets of darkness. Even his opening scene is a grabber (Vinicio popping up out of a lake), and most filmmakers don't even bother to do this anymore. On top of that, Cordero gives Crónicas the rhythm of a 1970s American film, reveling in his characters' flaws, and revealing an anti-hero with no easy resolutions.

Alfred Molina co-stars as Manolo's boss, but only appears on television screens. Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro co-produced. Palm Pictures' 2005 DVD release comes with an alternate ending, a director commentary track, deleted scenes, a photo gallery, and various featurettes.

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