- Allan Hunter
- 2 September 2019
Twisty and deeply satisfying Argentinian thriller from writer-director Benjamín Naishtat
There is something rotten at the heart of 1970s Argentina in Rojo. Benjamín Naishtat's twisty, murky, noir-like thriller has echoes of Chinatown as it uses an individual story to reveal a country that has lost its moral compass.
The tone is effectively set in an opening sequence where ordinary citizens systematically loot an abandoned home. Someone's misfortune is their opportunity. In the Granada of 1975, we subsequently meet provincial lawyer Claudio (a commanding Darío Grandinetti). He is a pillar of the local community and a man who gives the appearance of having nothing to hide. One Saturday evening, a stranger confronts him in a busy restaurant. An ill-mannered encounter escalates into violence, before the story fades to events three months later.
What happened, who is to blame and what the impact might be on this tight-knit community are all questions that beg an answer and ensure that the film remains constantly intriguing. Naishtat builds a sense of sinister unease throughout, whilst creating a picture of a world ruled by self-interest and shaped by paranoia. Innocence is a luxury that few feel they can afford and everyone turns a blind eye to what is happening in their own backyard. It's a situation that seems to prevail throughout the country.
When Columbo-like detective Sinclair (Alfredo Castro) arrives from Buenos Aires to investigate a missing person, he could be just another lamb to the slaughter. This is a country in which inconvenient citizens can merely disappear, leaving soon-forgotten traces and abandoned homes ripe for looting.
Claustrophobic settings and moments of treacly darkness add to the oppressive, atmospheric feel of Rojo, a film that is expertly crafted and confidently paced. This absorbing, deeply satisfying thriller confirms writer-director Naishtat as one of the most exciting voices in new Argentinean cinema.
Limited release from Fri 6 Sep.