El Bonaerense


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Real life is less predictable than movie life. You can't say in a patronising voice, "I saw it coming a mile off." Saw what?

El Bonaerense is movie life masquerading as real life. Pablo Trapero's neo-realistic style explains very little and encourages the audience to pick up crumbs of information as the story progresses. Even corruption - this is about the misuse of power, isn't it? - appears so much part of the fabric that it doesn't require highlighting.

Zapa (Jorge Roman) is a slow, passive, unambitious 32-year-old locksmith, working in a small country town in Argentina. He's tall and good looking in a Hulk-ish kind of way, but the absence of personality makes him a dull companion.

When a safe cracking job goes wrong and he is set up as the fall guy, his uncle, who used to be the local police chief, intervenes on his behalf. The case against him never goes to trial - all he did was open the safe with power tools, because his boss asked him to help out a couple of mates - and he finds himself in Buenos Aires, learning to a be a cop. The irony is not wasted.

The film's qualities are its weakness. The documentary approach leaves little space for plot. Zapa is picked up by one of the older policewomen and a torrid affair ensues, which leads, you expect, to love or something. He is treated by his cynical colleagues as a country bumpkin, far too unsophisticated to understand the culture of corruption, which is probably true, judging by his unquestioning acceptance of what may, or may not, be going on around him.

The handheld camerawork, the naturalistic acting, the uncompromising script that refuses to indulge the audience, is admirable for its lack of sentimentality. It would have been more interesting if Zapa had a brain.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2003
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A locksmith from a country town in Argentina is sent to Buenos Aires to become a cop.
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Director: Pablo Trapero

Writer: Nicolas Gueilburt, Ricardo Ragendorfer, Dodi Shoeuer, Pablo Trapero, Daniel Velenzuela

Starring: Jorge Roman, Mimi Ardu, Dario Levy, Victor Hugo Carrizo, Hugo Anganuzzi, Anibal Barengo

Year: 2002

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Argentina/Chile/France/Netherlands


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