(Pablo Trapero, 2010)
Within its first two minutes, Carancho establishes itself as a great film of the City. Buenos Aires, in this case (San Justo, more specifically), captured by Trapero, using a RED camera, in crisp images of neon-lit streets and grimy alleyways, dustily vacant lots and crumbling public buildings. Visually, this is a vivid, stunning portrayal of a crowded, chaotic megapolis by night, when it can seem lonely and beautifully desolate.
The noirish narrative and characterisation just underline this. Tracing the growing relationship between a Emergency Doctor and an Ambulance-chasing lawyer and set against the backdrop of a City with horrific road death figures, Trapero's film presents a grimy, morally compromised world where the vulnerable and innocent are preyed upon by companies bent on Insurance scams and massive profits. The lovers we follow are only slightly less tainted than everybody else: he arranges accidents for insurance pay-offs and haunts waiting rooms in search of fresh meat. She writes prescriptions for herself and shoots up into her feet.
Trapero gives their characters time and space and that - together with terrific performances from Ricardo Darin and Martina Gusman - makes their halting love story believable and affecting, and gives the danger they find themselves mired in during the last act real charge.
It is Trapero's most conventional film - you can imagine exactly how a U.S. remake might look - with its action scenes and plot reversals, but he directs it with energy, invention and a seriously great eye. His actors give it a soulful, bruised quality absent in much modern Noir.
Darin is one of the World's great film stars and Trapero's camera lingers upon Gusman's distinctive beauty (she is his wife) throughout, and the two have impressive chemistry. The supporting cast and astute use of pop and rock on the soundtrack emphasise the impression of Carancho being a class act.
In the finest Noir tradition, it contains an absolute gut punch of an ending.