Screens If it bleeds, it leads

Crónicas shows how far the media will go to get the scoop

One of the first scenes in Crónicas is a mother and father grieving over the casket of their murdered son. Hovering over them, a cameraman begins to lean in closer to the couple and proceeds to move the man's arm, which is consoling his wife, because it is blocking his shot. Thus begins a deep and brutal story about the sensationalism of the news media and how far beyond immorality journalists will go to produce something that will attain "killer ratings."

In a small town in Latin America, Manolo Bonilla (Leguizamo), a popular journalist from Miami, is reporting from Ecuador with his cameraman Ivan (Yazpik) and producer Marisa (Watling) for the show Una Hora Con La Verdad (One Hour with the Truth), which parallels current shows like Univision's Primer Impacto.

In Crónicas, John Leguizamo plays a reporter on the hunt for "The Monster of Babahoyo," a serial killer that has tortured and killed more than 150 children.

On the trail of a serial killer known as the "Monster of Babahoyo," who has raped, tortured, and murdered more than 150 children, Manolo believes, although he has never seen him, that he is the closest anyone has ever gotten to the madman. That is until Manolo meets Vinicio Cepeda (Alcázar), a family man who has been wrongfully placed in prison for allegedly fleeing the scene of an accident where he hit and killed a child with his truck. Ironically, the child happens to be the twin brother of one of the victims of the "monster."

The father of the boys, a rageful Don Lucho (Henry Layana), is also thrown into prison when he tries to burn Vinicio alive for unintentionally taking the life of his last child.

Continuing to follow the late-breaking story, the news team enters the prison where both men are being held to interview them about what happened. Fearing for his life, Vinicio looks to Manolo and his influence in the media to shed light on the unfortunate but misunderstood events that led to his incarceration. Manolo, however, isn't interested in a sob story. Instead, he wants to boost the show's ratings and his own career opportunities.

Crónicas (Chronicles)

Dir. and writ. Sebastián Cordero; feat. John Leguizamo, Leonor Watling, Damián Alcázar, José María Yazpik, Alfred Molina (R)

But when Vinicio tells Manolo that he will give him information about the "monster" in exchange for a story on his innocence, the star reporter begins to pay close attention to the man, especially since he seems to know too much about the serial killer's thoughts and patterns.

Relying on his instinct, Manolo starts to believe Vinicio is the child killer, although Vinicio tells him about a man he met on the road who confessed to the murders. Reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs, when Dr. Hannibal Lecter snarls the words, "Quid pro quo," and tries to compel Clarice Starling to reveal information about her childhood if she wants clues to find Buffalo Bill, a similar mind play evolves between Manolo and Vinicio as they attempt to manipulate each other to get what they want.

Reportedly inspired by the true story of serial killer Pedro Lopez, AKA "The Monster of the Andes," who killed more than 350 children, director/screenwriter Sebastián Cordero delivers a lurid and absorbing drama about the power of the media and the steps some will take to get the big scoop.

By Kiko Martinez

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