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February 7, 2007

Filed under: movies»reviews»foreign

Cronicas

Ultimately a disturbing film, Cronicas wavers between unsettling ambiguity combined with blatant and unsubtle plot points. It's a story about tabloid journalism set in Latin America, although that shouldn't limit its impact only to Telemundo. John Leguizamo plays a TV reporter, accompanied by a producer and a cameraman, tracking a serial killer and pedophile in the village of Babahoyo. The reporter zeroes in on an imprisoned man that he suspects may be the killer, but a confession is slow to come. Meanwhile, the team sends footage back to their program that triumphs the suspect as wrongfully imprisoned for hitting a child with his truck--footage that obviously conflicts with the other narrative that they're simultaneously developing.

Cronicas eventually lets us know which story is the truth, and a great amount of its suspense comes from figuring out which will actually air. The director, Sebastian Cordero, wants us to understand that these two factors, truthfulness and exposure, are not inextricably linked in the minds of these journalists, although they may posture to the contrary. I'm not saying that this isn't a good point, or that Cordero doesn't leave the audience uncomfortable. I think the confusion comes from the suspected killer, played with a damp madness by Damien Alcazar, whose performance is genuinely creepy but who doesn't leave the audience with much doubt as to his innocence or guilt. This may be a weakness in the writing, which sets up this question as the primary dilemma of the film, and as a result the crisis of journalistic ethics basically sneaks up on viewers. For some reviewers, this has been interpreted as the movie falling apart, but for me it's really the moment where it congealed from a Latin Primal Fear into something more interesting.

As a side note, it's surprising (to me at least) to see Leguizamo carry off a leading role. Previously, I'd mainly thought of him as a character actor or comic relief (his unfortunate turn in Spawn, for example). It's not accurate to say that here he boasts "star power," but he's certainly believable as a reporter who's chasing the spotlight as much as the truth. It's an understated performance, which is not something I thought I'd ever say about this actor.

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