Towards Darkness


Dir: Antonio Negret
Star: Roberto Urbina, America Ferrera, Tony Plana, David Sutcliffe

If Colombia may have lost the '#1 in murders' title to Venezuela, it still remains a place that won't be on our holiday destination list anytime soon. A final caption informs us that someone is kidnapped in Colombia every three hours. Boy, they must be miffed... I can't vouch for the truth of that, but if anyone should be making a movie about such things, it's Negret, as multiple members of his family have apparently been through the ordeal. Here, Josť (Urbina) returns from college in America and becomes the victim. His family hire a company to negotiate his release, and as time runs out, former FBI agent Charlie (Sutcliffe) is dispatched to make his way through the city to deliver the ransom. However, a series of flashbacks reveal the events that surrounded the crime. Where did Jose's father (Plana) get the money from, after the insurance company stiffed him? What is the reason for the kidnapping? And how does Luiza (Ferrera, looking most non-Ugly Betty), a former friend of Jose, play into proceedings?

It's a fractured story, that unfolds in fragments, though we did largely work out where it was going before it eventually arrived there. The film's success is more because of its plot, and the way in which apparently disparate groups all eventually end up being interconnected, rather than the characters - the latter are fairly sketchily drawn in broad terms, and the frequent switching of focus and timeframes makes it harder to grow attached to any of them. You have to pull together the pieces yourself, and Negret avoids putting things together for his audience, which is both refreshing and irritating - you have to pay attention, and that's fine, yet it sometimes feels a little too much like lazy scripting. It isn't quite the pulse-pounding episode of 24 you might think it should be yet the director deserves credit for sticking to his guns and not going for an easy, cop-out ending, as all the forces apparently converge on the same location. To have done so would have been a shame - though would like have made funding from the Colombian tourist board more likely.

C+
[October 2009]


Come to sunny Colombia,
meet friendly people, and be kidnapped
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