AFI Fest 2010
By Don Simpson | November 20, 2010
Director: Pablo Trapero
Writer(s): Alejandro Fadel (screenplay), Martin Mauregui (screenplay), Santiago Mitre (screenplay), Pablo Trapero (screenplay)
Starring: Ricardo Darin, Martina Gusman, Carlos Weber
Eight thousand people die and 120,000 are injured in traffic accidents in Argentina every year. With weak laws governing insurance payouts and millions of pesos in medical and legal expenses at stake, automobile accidents are really big business on the black market.
Sosa (Ricardo Darín) is an ambulance chaser who works for a shady legal foundation which also happens to be the only real hope for compensation for many poor and uninsured Argentines. Sosa peskily makes his living hustling his way around automobile accidents, hospitals and morgues. We are left to ponder whether Sosa is a vulture (carancho) or is he actually beneficial to the poor and uninsured of Buenos Aires? Sosa knows with absolute certainty that his current employer is shady, but he has lost his law license and needs to save up some money before he can practice on his own.
At a late night accident scene, Sosa meets Lujan (Martina Gusman), a beautiful and idealistic young doctor who works a wearyingly relentless schedule. Lujan drives around in an ambulance all night and Sosa chases ambulances, so it is inevitable that the two characters will continue to cross paths. Sosa is immediately infatuated with Lujan (and who can blame him?), but the feeling is not mutual (who can blame Lujan?)…at least not at the beginning.
Eventually Lujan does fall for Sosa (do not ask me why); thus our romantic couple is comprised of a murderer/ambulance chaser and an overworked drug addict. With Sosa’s life and Lujan’s well being at stake, Sosa begins to conjure up a plan for them to escape Buenos Aires together.
Against the tapestry of this sleazy insomniac world of late night traffic accidents propagated by ambulance chasers and exhausted paramedics, director Pablo Trapero (also the editor and co-writer) creates a gritty neo-noir about the Argentinian health care system, with the villains — no matter who murders (sometimes accidentally) who — being the sleazy old men bureaucrats. Trapero and his co-screenwriters establish an unyielding menace of danger, leading us to believe that it is just a matter of time when (not if) something will go horribly wrong with Sosa’s plans.
Trapero poses a really tough question: can good people who knowingly do bad things for bad people still be considered good? Darín plays Sosa with so much moral ambiguity that this question is impossible to answer with an emphatic “yes.”
Carancho earns a lot of extra credit for its incredibly ballsy conclusion — I wish more directors had the nerve to end their films like this! Gusman and Darín’s performances are both quite excellent, however they were never able to convince me that Lujan would ever fall in love with Sosa. In the end, that is my only real problem with Carancho; but it turns out to be a pretty major problem, since the narrative relies so heavily upon the plausibility of their love story.