Sunday, August 12, 2012

NY Latino Film Fest ’12: 180 Seconds

Evidently, Colombia is now more concerned with armed robbers than Marxist terrorists or drug cartels.  Sounds like progress to me.  It is still a dangerous country though, especially for a gang of takers about to be taken in Alexander Giraldo’s 180 Seconds (trailer here), which screens during this year’s New York Latino Film Festival.

Zico is planning a major heist on the day of an all important World Cup qualifying game against Uruguay.  Viewers know from the flashback structure, both will end badly for the home teams.  It seems Zico’s gang got played, but Giraldo keeps the details sketchy, hop-scotching back and forth along the timeline, often replaying several key scenes, but backing up successively further each time to supply more context.

Zico’s outfit is a family affair, including his beloved hacker sister Angelica and their lifelong boon companion, El Guajaro.  Rincon is the only outsider in the mix, hired on the advice of their nicked pal.  He seems to fit in, because strong sullen types always do.  However, when he catches Angelica’s eye, it causes a bit of friction between the new guy and her suspiciously co-dependent brother.  Zico acts like things are cool, but you never can tell with him.  Regardless, things will get bloody when it is finally go time.

With its time-shifts and a plot often paralleling Reservoir Dogs, 180 owes an obvious debt to Tarantino.  Still, Giraldo gives it a hedonistic club kid vibe totally unlike the talkie lowlife gangster milieu of indie dweeb-god’s films.  Though the constant flashes forwards and back sound annoying as a migraine, Giraldo handles them quite deftly, often focusing on some nice character establishing bits, while supplying more pieces to the narrative puzzle.

Manuel Sarmiento Vallejo gets it, playing Zico, the unstable mastermind, to the hilt.  Angelica Blandon is also pretty spot on as her namesake, the flirtatious and petit pseudo-femme fatale.  Conversely, though he might be playing the muscle, Alejandro Aguilar is a weak presence as Rincon, which is a drawback, considering he has the heaviest character development arc.

Nonetheless, Giraldo packs a lot of style and energy into 180, but never to the point that it substitutes for substance.  In recent years, some of the best Latin American films have come from Colombia, such as Ciro Guerra’s The Wind Journeys and Jorge Navas’s dynamite noir morality play Blood and Rain.  While not quite at the level of the latter, 180 is still an impressively executed crime drama.  Recommended for those who appreciate the grittier side of the heist genre or closely follow Colombian cinema, 180 Seconds screens this Friday night (8/17) at the Chelsea Clearview as part of the 2012 NY Latino Film Fest.