Carancho (15)

Starring: Ricardo Darín, Martina Gusman

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The Independent Culture

Pablo Trapero's bleak nocturne derives from a shocking traffic phenomenon: in Argentina, 22 people a day die in road accidents, with about 120,000 injured every year.

Millions of pesos are paid out in compensation cases involving families, insurance companies and the law. Ricardo Darín (The Secrets in Their Eyes) plays Sosa, an ambulance-chasing lawyer – a "vulture" – who's lost his licence and now trawls hospitals and police stations in search of clients. His concern for the victims and their traumatised families is merely a front for him to rake off the payouts in settlement cases: a corrupt judiciary will enjoy the profits. This lowdown system is upset when he falls for a junior A&E doctor, Lujan (Martina Gusman), who's so exhausted by the hours that she needs a little medication of her own to keep going. Will Sosa be redeemed by love or is he too deeply entwined in the scam?

Trapero's portrait of Buenos Aires is painted in the deep-dyed hues of corruption and intimidation for which Darín, with his shifty facial changes, looks well-suited. The emergency rooms of downtown hospitals look like a battle zone; in one instance, two bloodied victims on stretchers recognise each other and resume their violent altercation right there. The problem with the film is its murkiness of plotting – we are never quite sure who owes, or owns, whom – though Gusman and Darín are good as the flawed couple. Its journey through nighttime Buenos Aires is less dangerous, though perhaps not much less grim, than an actual ride through those mean streets.