Gael Garcia Bernal’s Chicuarotes tries to defy expectations for a film in which the actor-director himself plays a performer, committing itself to an exploration of the particular Mexican reality of unsettled youths, a realm where the laws of the street reigns. But Bernal so superficially roots his film in the specificity of this subculture that it falls into the trappings of the overly familiar youth-crime genre, even as the richness and distinctiveness of the language benefit from this treatment. The details, then: Two young Mexican street clowns, Cagalera and Moloteco, wish to escape the oppression of poverty and familial obligation, and they decide to do it by robbing at gunpoint the same people they tried to make laugh just minutes before. A brush with a failed robbery crystallizes for them the idea that true freedom will require something far bigger, and to that end they decide to kidnap a kid, the son of a local butcher.
But no amount of local color or specific linguistic tics prevents the script from indulging in mostly conventional and clichéd narrative beats, specifically grating here as it applies to the consequences of two inexperienced young adults’ spontaneous decision to kidnap for profit. The violence present in the film might be rough for some, but it isn’t as raw and necessarily gritty as is needed to bear its thematic aspirations. For a film that so clearly prides itself on its access to and representation of the lives of the often invisible people who live in the slums of Mexico City, it prescribes to a frustratingly bland and familiar formula. A failed, stock attempt at social shock that doesn’t deliver any insight, Chicuarotes is a shallow study which seems committed only to continue down a cruel path that revels in the oblivion of its main characters.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 6.