Thursday, November 8, 2018

Movie with Abe: El Angel

El Angel
Directed by Luis Ortega
Released November 9, 2018

The term “serial killer” encompasses a number of definitions. There are stories throughout history of those who took many lives, following a ritual pattern that made victims easy to identify and attribute to their particular brand of execution. Some, like Jack the Ripper, were never caught, while others, like Son of Sam, were apprehended and continue to serve prison terms to this day. The motivations for killing sprees vary greatly, with some describing voices telling them to do harm and others simply doing it for the fun of it. And then there are those for whom killing is merely a side effect of their primary activities.

Seventeen-year-old Carlos (Lorenzo Ferro), better known as Carlitos, loves stealing things, taking small or large items from empty homes or wherever he finds them. When he meets Ramón (Chino Darín), he begins planning his crimes ahead of time, working also with Ramón’s father, José (Daniel Fanego), who appreciates Carlitos’ talent but worries about his unpredictability and his penchant for doing whatever he feels like it in the moment. When things go awry, Carlitos has no problem pulling the trigger without a moment’s hesitation, resulting in a number of deaths that eventually catch up with Carlitos as he uses his childlike appearance to his advantage at every turn.

This film, which serves as Argentina’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film, chronicles one of the most notorious real-life cases in the country’s history. It presents its events literally and without much preface, introducing Carlitos as a teenager who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him and who sees the world through his own eyes, locking on to activities and prizes that appeal to him without much concern for any collateral damage. He ups his game to impress Ramón, but that still doesn’t mean he’s going to give any thought to what might happen if he gets caught since he’s having so much fun on the ride.

Much of this film’s success hinges on Ferro’s performance, since Carlitos is mostly silent, looking around at things that catch his eye and wondering what he might do to obtain them. It’s a formidable, understated turn, one that portrays him as someone merely searching for excitement, never bothering to consider any other path than the one he’s on. This film is fully driven by its plot, and its robbery scenes in particular sparkle with an unpredictable energy. The story is pretty incredible on its own, and this film does a great job of bringing it to the screen.


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