Reviewed by Ken Fox

Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu gives fortune's wheel three cruel spins in this often thrilling, if overwhelmingly brutal, trio of interconnected short stories. With a complex, three-part story structure that recalls the interwoven plots of PULP FICTION, Guillermo Arriaga's script chronicles the travails of three total strangers, whose lives are forever changed by a devastating car crash. The film opens with a breathlessly edited chase through the crowded streets of Mexico City: One driver is Octavio (Gael García Bernal), a good-natured young man desperately in love with his abusive brother Ramiro's (Marco Perez) wife, Susana (Vanessa Bauche). When the terrified Susana learns she's pregnant again with Ramiro's baby, Octavio suggests they run away together to Juarez; to raise money, he enters Ramiro's dog Cofi into the bloody and barbaric arena of dog fighting. The driver of the other car is Valeria (Goya Toledo), a successful fashion model whose career is cut short when Octavio runs a red light. Confined to a wheelchair with a smashed leg and cared for by her married lover (Alvaro Guerrero), Valeria begins to unravel; a further turn of the screw comes when her little dog follows a rubber ball through a hole in the floor of her apartment and disappears. The third story centers on a bystander, a former revolutionary turned assassin known only as El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) — "The Goat" — who lives like a beggar with his pack of stray dogs. El Chivo rescues the seriously wounded Cofi from the scene of the accident and nurses him back to health, an act of kindness he'll live to regret. Shot on grainy film stock under the harshest lighting possible, the film has all the visual appeal of a bruise. But while the tripartite structure is cleverly constructed and everything fits together logically, the film lacks any real thematic coherence, delivering a series of painful rabbit punches instead of the T.K.O. the filmmaker's evident talent promises. "Amores Perros" translates roughly as "love's a bitch," which is as good a title as any for this unremittingly bleak film. (In Spanish with English subtitles.)