For a film shot in Ecuador, Crónicas feels curiously American in design. Yeah, it poses as a hand-held documentary-style exposé on media manipulation in Latin American television and the poverty within Babahoyo, but it’s very white bread in its conventional narrative storytelling. The characters all have sharply defined goals and take actions toward them, but they feel yanked from the pages of Sid Field’s books on screenplay structure; as the terse story unfolds, one attempts to puzzle out why it feels so square and North American. John Leguizamo stars as a Miami-based tabloid reporter (The Hero) attempting to track down a serial killer (Antagonist) in the province of Los Rios (Vivid and Evocative Location/Left Wing Hand-Wringing), who has murdered and sexually abused over 150 children (Horror). Before you can say, “How far will he go to get the story?” he’s negotiating with a perhaps unjustly imprisoned bible salesman (Damián Alcázar), seemingly unrelated to the serial killer (Narrative Complexity) who claims to have information about the case. But how did he learn so much? (Intrigue!) And will our hero twist the news to suit his own purposes of achieving fame and glory, even if it means burying The Truth? (Provocative!) Though Crónicas adopts the conventions of a thriller to sustain audience interest, it broadly moralizes about television and doesn’t yield any information that wasn’t already covered in Sidney Lumet’s dated and obsolete Network. Leguizamo gets center stage and delivers a compelling performance, and writer-director Sebastián Cordero keeps his scenario marching forward at a thankfully brisk pace. It’s rarely dull yet simultaneously airless and disposable. But the blame for why it all feels so non-foreign, so screenplay 101, and so full of shit may ultimately lie in the first title card during the end credits: “Developed at the Sundance Screenwriting Lab.”
An exceptional transfer, from the solid shadow delineation to the eye-popping shades of blue and green that color many of the better lit interiors. No edge enhancement or debris is ever on display. Sound, available in 2.0 and 5.1 surround, is crisp and clear throughout.
A commentary track by Sebastián Cordero, who reveals that he inspired his lead characters after the alternately charismatic and morally questionable characters of the many 70s films (like Five Easy Pieces), an exhaustive but pleasantly grungy making-of doc, an alternate ending (while exciting, it's inferior to the existing ending), a deleted scene, a "Soledad" recording session, an alternate take on the film's lynching sequence (this time with music), a variety of trailers, a photo gallery, previews of other Palm Pictures titles, and weblinks.
Nothing special, unless you want to take that expensive Screenplay 101 class from home.