It’s perversely fascinating to watch a filmmaker take a real-life story and focus on everything that is least interesting about it. Set in 1980s Argentina, Pablo Trapero’s drama follows the activities of Arquímedes Puccio (Guillermo Francella), a merchant and government official who ran a profitable side business leading a criminal enterprise kidnapping people and murdering them once the ransom was paid. The central conflict theoretically involves the moral qualms of Arquímedes’ son Alex (Peter Lanzani), a rugby star who helped with the crimes, especially as he considers a normal life with his girlfriend Mónica (Stefanía Koessl). But Trapero spends too little time on either Arquímedes’ rationalizations for his actions or on Alex’s growing anxieties, instead focusing long stretches on the kidnapping operations themselves, and a back-and-forth chronology that serves little narrative purpose. And considering the significance of the time frame—Argentina’s shift from military dictatorship to democracy—you could get lost in the story’s political dynamics without a working knowledge of Argentine history. A few solid performance moments can’t overcome a sense that we’ve left a story about an actual crime family without knowing much about who they are.
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