A postcard from hell. Director Barbet Schroeder steps away from the glossy, unsatisfying studio fare he's been turning out for the past few years in this rough, breathless adaptation of Fernando Vallejo's ferociously sardonic novel. After a 30-year absence, Fernando (Germàn Jaramillo), Colombia's foremost grammarian and an inveterate lover of much younger men, returns to his hometown of Medellin to die. He's come to the right place. Since he's been gone, Colombia's second-largest city has become a virtual necropolis overrun by gangs of teenage hit men, the living remnants of the cocaine empire once lorded over by the late Pablo Escobar. With little left to do but squabble over territory the boys fiercely protect their homes in the hillside shantytowns or comunas that ring Medellin proper they ride around the city on motorbikes, shooting each other and innocent bystanders in an ever-escalating, never-ending series of revenge killings. Ironically, it's one of these hit men, a young gun named Alexis (Anderson Ballesteros), who gives the grammarian a shred of a reason to live. Fernando meets Alexis at the home of a friend, and charmed by his youth, beauty and surprising kindness, Fernando falls in love. The pair spend their days strolling the streets of the city, dodging bullets, stepping over corpses and visiting churches where kids light both candles and joints. Buoyed by love but sobered by the inevitable fact that somewhere in Medellin there's a bullet with Alexis's name scrawled on it, the older man imparts his bitter wisdom to a youth who, despite his tender years, has seen more death than most men see in their entire lives outside a battlefield. Schroeder and Vallejo, who successfully adapted his own stream-of-consciousness novel into a screenplay, have toned down the novel's violence (the book reads like a devastatingly bleak black comedy, with Alexis picking people off for the most absurd reasons) rendering the action at once more realistic and more horrifying. Shot on high-definition video on the streets of Medellin, often under the threat of real-life violence from genuine hit men, Schroeder made the wise decision to use actual street toughs in his cast. Surely no actor could capture the mixture of youthful innocence and deadly experience that haunts the eyes of these young men.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: R
- Review: A postcard from hell. Director Barbet Schroeder steps away from the glossy, unsatisfying studio fare he's been turning out for the past few years in this rough, breathless adaptation of Fernando Vallejo's ferociously sardonic novel. After a 30-year absence… (more)