Becoming A Part Of The Chronicle

 

Crónicas (2005) Review 5
Director:Sebastián Cordero,
Starring:John Leguizamo, Alfred Molina, Damián Alcázar, Gloria Leyton, Leonor Watling, and José María Yazpik
Length:108 minutes
Rated:R

 

Manolo Bonilla is on his way up as a television news reporter. His aggressive infotainment approach has his ratings moving in the right direction. One day he literally stumbles onto a really big story and may become the chronicle in the process.

“Crónicas” or “Chronicles” is an extremely effective thriller that above all show-cases John Leguizamo’s talent. Long relegated to throwaway comedic roles, Leguizamo has quietly built a solid serious acting resume. And his performance as Manolo is his best one yet. This is because the film is solid, complex, and entertaining focusing so much on Leguizamo in the lead. When I spoke with him at Sundance this year, he was palling around with native Ecuadorian Writer/Director Sebastián Cordero and gave Cordero great credit for helping shape the role mainly because Leguizamo is not fluent in Spanish. Humbly, he asked if his performance worked. And it does.

“Crónicas” deals with an investigation into the murder of several children in Ecuador by a killer known as “the Monster.” The film opens with Manolo covering the funeral of one of the murdered children. This gritty event is captured for us and by Manolo and his crew for the television news. During the funeral march, a terrible thing happens. A man driving through the crowded streets hits and kills the twin brother of the slain boy. When the father of the deceased learns of this tragedy, he and his family attack the man pulling him from his truck and savagely beating him and worse. Unable to just sit back and capture the events on film, Manolo jumps into the fray and helps to rescue the man.

Gaining the man’s confidence, Manolo then proceeds to interview him while he is being held in prison. But who is this man and what does he know about the “Monster?”

Director Cordero impressively constructs tension particularly in the early funeral scenes. This is a tough act to follow and the rest of the film plays tame in comparison. Still, the story is tight and told with a great deal of flair–at times, Alfred Molina appears in television broadcasts as the network anchor with a lot of influence. There are also modern high-tech references that make the incremental reporting approach interesting for prospective journalists. The creation of a feature television piece is captured well with an inside television perspective. And for me, the fact that the film is set in Ecuador with a Pan-Latin cast makes it all the more interesting and textured viewing. The possible love triangle doesn’t exactly work, but Leguizamo is able to convey a sexy presence especially as his fame in the movie grows to the point where he is recognized as a star. Leguizamo, the actor, establishes himself here as a guy who can play confident cocky with the best of them. Viewers might find his sneer and mannerisms delicious.

While the story is tightly told, there are subplots that make it credibly complex. Manolo must satisfy the demands of his producers and anchor as well as battle his own sense of right and wrong. He fears that betraying the confidence of the man he helped rescue may be wrong, but at the same time, he wants to be the one to find the “Monster,” be the Hero. These inner struggles cause him not only professional pain but risk getting him arrested when a police detective begins snooping around. But Manolo wants to hold his cards close and play his hand on his own terms. Credit must be given to Leguizamo who makes Manolo brood in a way most of us will relate to. The tough decisions manifest themselves all over Manolo’s face. The cost of fame is high.

Today’s media is often attacked for its lack of objectivity. I’ve said many times on this site, that I proscribe to the belief that objectivity, certainly in its purest form, is a myth. But what happens when the newsmakers become part of the story? How do they reconcile the changes they make to the story they are covering? And what really is the truth when the dust settles? “Crónicas” suggests answers to those questions and reveals that the dark reality is always right in front of you if you care to open your eyes.