11 November 2005 | gradyharp
The Drive for Media Infamy
Crónicas is a terse, highly atmospheric movie that begins with a terrific idea but then doesn't seem to now where to go with it. The director Sebastián Cordero himself admits that the ending was nebulous until one of the actors (Leonor Watling) suggested a way to make the film work. The notes for the alternative ending demonstrate how flimsy this screenplay was, even into the final edit. So it is a film that begins well then loses its way in the mud of Ecuador.
Manolo Bonilla (John Leguizamo), a upwardly mobile TV journalist seeking stardom, has traveled to Ecuador with his assistant Marisa Iturralde (Leonor Watling) and cameraman Ivan Suarez (José María Yazpik) to cover the story of the 'Monster of Babahoyo', a serial rapist and murderer of small children. As they are filming a strange man Vinicio Cepeda (Damián Alcázar) has wandered into town and during the paparazzi effect of Bonilla's crew filming the mass funeral of the latest victims of the 'Monster'. Vinicio inadvertently runs over the twin of one of the victims resulting in an outrage by the father of the twins and a beating of Vinicio. Both are jailed and Manolo learns from the incarcerated Vinicio that he has secrets about the Monster. Seeing the chance for a 'Big Story' that will assure his stardom Manolo pursues the fragments of evidence about the Monster until little by little he 'uncovers' the truth. And the truth is terrifying.
Along the bumpy script road there is a love affair between Marisa (Ivan's girl!) and Manolo, communications with the Miami TV show Victor Hugo Puente (Albert Molina, whom we only see on a TV screen), and distractions from the townspeople and police. At times the storyline feels so jumbled that it is difficult to keep characters and motivations straight. But in the end this is a rather powerful indictment about the TV/media aggressive insertion into global reporting and the questionable ethics involved. The cast is strong, making the best of a mediocre script. The camera work seems to enjoy the endless preoccupation with poverty and inclement weather and the bleak atmosphere becomes wearing. This is a film with a good idea that just becomes a bit crippled in production. Grady Harp