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Conflict of interest in 'Cronicas'

July 08, 2005|Kevin Thomas

Sebastian Cordero's "Cronicas" opens strongly: Hotshot reporter Manolo Bonilla (John Leguizamo) for a Spanishlanguage TV tabloid news program in Miami, heads for an Ecuadorian village that has become the latest target for a serial rapist and killer of children who may also have struck in other South American countries. He and his producer Marisa (Leonor Watling) and cameraman Ivan (Jose Maria Yazpik) have arrived just in time for Bonilla to save a man set afire.

A local man, Don Lucho (Henry Layana), has just learned that one of his sons has fallen victim to the killer only to have the boy's twin brother struck by a truck driven by Vinicio (Damian Alcazar, in a complex portrayal), a traveling Bible salesman, who lives in the town.

Although it turns out that the boy was killed by his head hitting on a rock in the street when struck by the truck, Don Lucho, crazed by grief and aided by other men, takes it out on Vinicio. With Ivan's camera rolling, Bonilla , a Latino media celebrity, steps forward and saves Vinicio's life.

The local police captain (Camilo Luzuriaga) arrests and imprisons Vinicio, who so fears for his life that he tells Bonilla he will reveal to the reporter the identity of the serial killer.

At this point the picture turns into a cat-and-mouse game, with Bonilla sensing the story of a lifetime landing in his lap while Vinicio strings him along, yet at the same time Vinicio behaves in such a manner to suggest that he could be the killer, working toward an urge to confess.

Cordero sets up this situation with a gritty terseness but is hard put to maintain momentum and ingenuity. Even so, the result is reasonably absorbing and a provocative if familiar commentary on media manipulation, with Leguizamo terrific in a serious, intense performance as a smart, ambitious young man moving inexorably toward a moral crossroads.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Cronicas": Rated R for violence, a scene of sexuality and language. At selected theaters.

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