It’s no secret that over the last five years I’ve stopped believing in Hollywood movies. It’s as if they have nothing at all to do with me. They fail to reflect anything in my life, or in the lives of anyone I know. I can’t believe Jennifer Aniston has trouble dating. I can’t believe anyone finds Will Ferrell funny. I don’t want to watch talking animals. I catch a few superhero movies for the odd fix of silly action, but most are based on seventy year-old characters and plot tropes. Hollywood, it seems, was so busy selling and selling that it forgot how to tell a story well.
The critically-lauded Argentinian noir thriller ‘Carancho’ (The Vulture) underscores everything that went wrong, and shows how to do it right. Ricardo Darin is the titular ambulance-chasing lawyer whose company creams off most of the insurance from traffic accidents, giving only a tiny amount back to the victims. Darin hates this, but is forced into the job because he once made a mistake that got him struck off. He breaks the law to get decent compensation for his clients, but in doing so he brings down the wrath of his cheated boss.
Martina Gusman is a beautiful, frazzled doctor injecting drugs to keep herself going through the long night shifts helping the survivors of horrendous freeway smashes. As the pair of mismatched but utterly natural lovers slowly come to rely upon each other, they find their respective professions compromised, and the violence they witness every night turns back onto them. Even as they grab at moments of happiness, you just know it can’t end well…
It’s impossible not to believe in these two. The camera follows them in thrillingly long takes, through bloodstained corridors, through cluttered offices, into claustrophobic, crowded spaces and through the sheer bloody insanity of what must be one of the world’s worst hospitals. At one point, the nurses have to barricade themselves into the operating theatre as a gun battle rages in the corridor outside, and the enemies are warring patients.
When the pair are forced into hatching a doomed scheme to get out of a final impossible situation, what began as a noir thriller takes on the scale of a greater tragedy, and what makes it all so moving is that you believe in the lovers and pray for them to escape. It’s a vision of hell and redemption, painful and moving because you side with the leads every step of the way. The night streets of Argentina look like seventies LA and the carefully framed shots reveal telling details of complicated lives. No-one is entirely pure, but perhaps some can be saved.
Don’t expect a remake any time soon.