CARANCHO (2010)

Man, Ricardo Darin is on a roll. Seems like every movie I’ve seen of his—well, all of two so far—has him pulling some major poon at some point in the plot. In impoverished Argentina, Carancho is the colloquialism for ambulance chasers, or a rubberneck on a mission (the mission being to eke out incidental living from someone else’s misfortune). It also translates to ‘vulture,’ after the local bird.

A carancho would latch on to a case involving driving related injury or death then proceed to milk the compensation for a cut. In response to an alarming trend in car accidents in Argentina, going back a decade at least, insurance mediators, i.e. Caranchos, for better or worse, carved an unwholesome niche to profit off of. Not everything is clean, of course. In fact, none of it is clean to tell the truth. What’s worse is the appeal in the end result—a serially pilfered payout—for many in chronic poverty to get in on disability insurance at any cost, resorting to self-infliction in some cases.

Despite widespread phenomena of its eponymous profession, Carancho focuses on Sosa (Darin as a disbarred lawyer) instead of an industry-wide exposé, with several peripheral actors in the insurance claims business. Players in this turgid ecosystem include plaintiffs, medics. automechanics, and brokers, who are essentially rogue lawyers versed in legalese. And depending on if I didn’t misunderstand one scene, making them a curious omission otherwise, you also have liable parties. The catalysts of others’ livelihood, so you wouldn’t want to forget to thank those or leave them out.

One character in particular, Lujan (Martina Gusman), gets a comparable share of the narrative as Sosa’s love interest and a skeleton crew emergency medic. They meet when Sosa loiters around her clinic scoping for a call, looking like his usual self; as if in a constant need for a mate replenishment. On top, Sosa is a hobbling, wobbling, stubbled mess on two legs that collects scars the same way a door frame at a new-wave hippie household does height marks for children at various ages growing up.

Lujan, once you leave out her heroin habit, is actually the more composed of the two, and seems to have a good head [of hair] on her shoulders in how she conducts herself while on call. She’s so straight-laced on the surface I thought the shoot-up scenes were for diabetes, not Herron. She has a rapport with an ambulance driver who keeps his hands to himself when not on the wheel or an injury victim. For a blue collar Hispanic dude, he’s also surprisingly chivalrous with nuanced sensibilities despite looking like someone who’d lost their virginity to a first cousin and got an abortion to boot.

One simple open-and-shut case goes awry for Sosa, undermining his chances with Lujan. Although she’s far from a model professional to begin with, shooting heroin whenever she’s on a double shift, it’s just that for her, when a potential claimant dies in a staged accident it constitutes the epitome of irresponsibility. Can’t fault a chick for having standards or some qualms about lack of safety standards. Not a premed applying for her residency. In fairness to Sosa, both a remorse over negligent death and the previous prospects of starting anew with Lujan would instigate an awakening. It’s a matter of a perception miscue and bad timing. Of course the latter could also be said for the sad hack who died but enough of him.

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Their love story would take a backseat to survival even when it’s ignited again, forming a codependent bond between the two. In one romantic moment, Lujan gets brutalized by Sosa’s nemesis and as he patches her up, he injects her with heroin in the bathroom. About as sensual a drug ingestion could get in cinema or in life. Carancho is gritty without having to overwhelm the viewer with social commentary about market inefficiencies and corrupt institutions. No one is a hero as it retains noir tropes like the broken protagonists at odds with their immediate surroundings. Both of these elements combine with a romanticized escape to allow the slightest engagement to cheer the duo on. And if one is so inclined to pigeonhole the movie, it’s also a crime thriller as it has both against the ropes as they burn the bridges to their professional or criminal ties. But at its core it works just as well as a story of an unlikely pair matched by the same coincidence a carancho would rely on to land a case.

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In between the climax and opening, quite a bit happens in the way of betrayal and handshake deals, and a precise recollection of these events eludes me now, and perhaps for the best. There is a formulaic bit when Sosa conveniently enlists the help of the only ungrudging contact he’s got left. Several times! Unconditionally! Why a mechanic would risk his neck for someone increasingly down on their luck and well on their way out of the Life for little or nothing to gain can also be construed as, well, the only plot device Pablo Trapero has got left. This isn’t necessarily a major downer. Perhaps Sosa and the mechanic go a long way back. Perhaps the bit was poorly written and another mechanic would have yielded a much tighter plot. Perhaps Trapero was on too tight a budget to cast another part. *Spoilers* The mechanic helped stage the earlier accident, behind the wheel in fact. Maybe he’s that beholden to Sosa as they’re both accomplices in a wrongful death. Maybe he should have stayed the fuck away from Sosa like Lujan and everyone else did. Regardless, the finale has me leaning more towards a poorly written scene than another explanation. And as much of a cop out it is for me to implore you to see for yourself, Carancho ends just as it began with Sosa no better off than he was in the first scene. This is real life. At least there’s some salvage value from upholding a pattern.

Special Isle Seat ratings
-Number of times I thought Martina Gusman was hotter than on IMDb and Google Image search? The entire time.
-Was it because she got naked? Next question (fap, fap, fap, fap…).
-Did it feature the typical music you’d hear in a Hispanic movie? Twice, I think.
-What about the customary scene with everyone dancing? Of course, are you kidding?
-Number of scenes where a soccer game was playing on TV or by the actors? You’re racist.

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