In Argentina, the only thing more dangerous than the rampant auto accidents and understaffed hospitals is the ambulance-chasing attorneys who prey upon the injured and grieving. Pablo Trapero's social exposé-cum-thriller concentrates on one such carancho ("vulture"), Sosa (Ricardo Darín), and his budding relationship with junkie doctor Luján (Martina Gusman), whose love helps him develop the moral courage necessary to realize his dreams of escaping his wretched profession. From staged-accident scams to schemes designed to dupe innocents out of indemnity payouts, Argentina's health and insurance industries are raked over the coals as corrupt systems that exploit the powerless and crush those with do-gooder consciences. Short on genuine suspense and long on righteous anger, the film is bolstered by a sturdy performance by Darín that brings emotional nuance to an underwritten role. Trapero, meanwhile, mires the proceedings in grungy neorealist aesthetics that often prove self-conscious and ineffective, particularly in an early series of handheld tracking shots from behind characters' heads that mistake bumpiness for immediacy and prove that the Dardennes' influence has reached South America. Nonetheless, the director's stylistic showmanship eventually pays off in a bravura single-take climax, his camera navigating physical and emotional spaces with the fatalistic urgency and despair of film noir.
Darín as vulture.
Opens at Metro, Fri., March 25. Not rated. 107 minutes.