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Cronicas (October 30/05)

Though Cronicas features an admittedly effective premise - a sleazy television journalist lands the scoop of a lifetime after encountering a prisoner who claims to have spoken with an infamous serial killer - the film suffers from a midsection that's thoroughly underwhelming and surprisingly dull.

This is despite an electrifying opening, in which opportunistic reporter Manolo Bonilla (John Leguizamo) finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a possible lynching. After filming most of the fracas, Bonilla jumps into the fray and puts a stop to the proceedings - thus positioning himself as a local hero. Bonilla uses this clout to secure an interview with Vinicio Cepeda (Damián Alcázar), the man who was minutes away from certain death were it not for Bonilla's interference. Cepeda reveals that he recently shared a car ride with none other than the "Monster of Babahoyo," a monstrous figure who has murdered more than 100 children over the past several years. Cepeda makes a deal with Bonilla wherein he'll disclose what he knows about the killer, but only after Bonilla airs a sympathetic interview with Cepeda (who has been imprisoned for accidentally running over a local man's son).

Writer/director Sebastián Cordero's efforts to transform Cronicas into a searing indictment of television journalism fall flat, due mostly to the film's repetitive second act and a distinct feeling of predictability in his screenplay. In terms of the latter, it becomes obvious fairly early on that the smug and self-satisfied Bonilla is due for some sort of a comeuppance - leading to an overly telegraphed conclusion. That said, Cronicas' resolution is undoubtedly one of the more entertaining elements within the film - despite Cordero's heavy-handed, sweeping attempts to impugn the world of television journalism.

It's a shame, really, given that Leguizamo delivers one of the most effective and appropriately subtle performances of his career. The actor does a nice job of transforming Bonilla into a relatively sympathetic figure who appears to genuinely believe that he's making ethical choices, although it's clear right from the outset that his overt ambition dictates his day-to-day decision-making process. Alfred Molina turns in a strange cameo appearance as the host of the ultra-flashy news program that Bonilla works for, while Alcázar capably steps into the shoes of a man whose true motives aren't revealed until the film's final minutes.

The bottom line is that, generally speaking, Cronicas just isn't all that compelling. Though there are a few intriguing moments here and there - ie in an effort to get a better shot, Bonilla's cameraman moves aside the arm of a man attempting to comfort his wife at the funeral for their son - the movie doesn't have the impact that it's clearly aiming for.

out of