Thursday, May 12, 2011

La Soga

Directed by: Joshua Crook
Written by: Manny Perez (story)
Starring: Manny Perez; Denise Quiñones; Paul Calderon; Juan Fernández
Music by: Evan Wilson
Cinematography: Zeus Morand
Release date(s): September 12 (TIFF)
Running time: 103 minutes
Country: Dominican Republic
Language: Spanish

La Soga (2009) is apparently the first film from Dominican Republic to receive a wider release in the West, which is ironic considering that so many Hollywood blockbusters has been shot there, standing in for Cuba, among other places. Apparently, the film received wider public acclaim at the last year’s Toronto film festival (very much like Slumdog Millionaire did a few years back.). The trailer showed a City of God like grittiness, with Manny Perez writing, starring and producing the film, directed by Joshua Crook. The plot was said to be the current reality of the country, where political turmoil and poverty is the part of everyday existence.

You expect a typical South American film, and what you get instead is a typical South Indian film, minus the song and dance, of course. This needs some explanation. Over the last few decades, the South Indian film industry (including Tamil, Telugu, Kanada, and Malayalam films) has developed an aesthetics of its own, which is a highly exaggerated version of the reality. Here everything is done larger-than-life, which borders in irreverence. Here the hero is more than superhuman, the villain, worse imaginable; here everything is told in a bold colour palette; here everyday logic goes for a toss for cinematic hyper-realism... In short, it’s all those things that you sniggered at in Rajinikanth’s Robot (2010), and loved it like nobody’s business.

La Soga, which literally means the rope, plays exactly the same way, only thing is here characters speak in Spanish, and is set in the impoverish neighbourhood of Santiago in Dominican Republic.

The poster of the film reads: “Revenge has a new name,” and the film tries very hard to be a revenge thriller with a sweet love story embedded into it (with Denise Quiñones, the 2001 Miss Universe from Puerto Rico, playing the love interest-childhood sweetheart). Luisito, the sensitive son of a butcher, becomes a hired killer for the police boss after his father is murdered in board daylight. His only aim in life is to find the killer of his father, and as he waits for his revenge, he becomes a killing machine for the criminal and drug dealers. Soon, he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart and wants out of the job, but like all mob films, it’s not easy to leave the Mafia, is it?

The film indiscriminately moves between the past and the present, with the past being presented in saturated colours, to evoke our sympathy for the hero, who is essentially a villain, while the present, in vivid colours, tells his various exploits with criminals. But, both the halves don’t necessarily work, especially when Perez in the title role isn’t really an actor.

What’s actually sad is that there’s no Dominican Republic in the film, not remotely.

Joseph Jon Lanthier's review of the film in Slant magazine.
Sam Adams' reviews of the film in The AV Club.

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