VOD film review: Carancho
James R | On 08, Nov 2019
Director: Pablo Trapero
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Martina Gusman, Carlos Weber
Watch Carancho online in the UK: BFI Player+ / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
8,000 car crashes happen in Argentina every year. By the end of Carancho, you’ll feel like you’ve been in one of them. This gritty South American noir about an affair between an ambulance chaser and an ambulance driver hits you hard.
If the film didn’t have you at “South American noir”, then its brutal blend of romance and violence will soon knock some sense into you. Sosa (Darin) is a carancho – a vulture who spends his life convincing traffic collision victims to pay his dodgy law firm to sue for damages and hog all the profits. He’s not a nice guy.
Luján (Gusman), meanwhile, is a kind-hearted doctor who’s lonely and wears glasses. Yes, she’s addicted to anaesthetic but she loathes ambulance chasers and corrupt officials. And she wears glasses. In short, she’s essentially the second greatest paramedic of all time – right after Josh off Casualty.
Inevitably, the pair cross paths. He’s got a bruised face after cheating the wrong clients and she’s exhausted after a horrible night shift in A and E. Coffee and something more follows – as does a string of car crashes where Lujan gives Sosa the inside track.
They’re flawed anti-heroes to say the least – Sosa barely flinches at using a hammer on someone’s leg to make a quick buck – but Pablo Trapero’s thriller completely sells their relationship, making their grim determination oddly endearing. They’re the Bonnie and Clyde of the traffic incident world.
Darin follows The Secret in Their Eyes with an intense performance – closer to Ryan Gosling in Drive than a sleazy lawyer – that balances being an unscrupulous fellow with being immensely likeable. He’s handsome, too, in a chiselled kind of way, the lines on his face hewn out of his skull by the gritty world around him. Gusman matches him with an equally captivating, tender turn, surrounded daily by the battleground of the hospital.
Throughout, Trapero anchords their relationship firmly in the grubby social surroundings of Buenos Aires. Money appears on screen a lot, but so does blood. The couple gradually develop morals, deciding to even out the playing field so that the thousands of traffic victims have a fighting chance.
As heavyweight thugs close in around them, the music gets louder and the visuals more chaotic – Ezequiel Borovinsky and Pablo Trapero’s editing is visceral stuff. Then, Sosa and Lujan’s desperate scheme to get rich and escape Argentina suddenly balloons out of control. Carancho ends with a climax that has a real impact. You’ll be breathing heavily for minutes afterwards.
Carancho is available on BFI Player+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.