Bad Boys for Life
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title means dirty hands, which may save you a google.
It's not hard to see why the great Spike Lee would want to get his hands on the drug-trafficking dramatic thriller Manos Sucias. It's exceptionally made and extraordinarily tense. It also profiles a culture that's both rarely depicted in art and quite underserved in real life. Lee isn't this film's director, though. That title, improbably, belongs to rookie filmmaker Josef Wladyka, whose voice is shockingly established for someone as green as he is.
The film introduces us to the drug trade that starts out of the ironically named Colombian port city of Buenaventura (translation: "good luck"). Two young men, Jacobo (Jarlin Javier Martinez) and Delio (Cristian James Abvincula), embark on a deal that will take them into the sometimes treacherous waters off the coast. The former has done this many times, but he wants out. The latter, on the other hand, is a rookie at delivering drugs, but it's something he's wanted and waited to do for a long time.
Jacobo and Delio are also brothers, though they haven't seen each other or spoken in a number of years. In the time since they last met, Delio became a father. This job, then, takes on more of a meaning to him as he seeks to find a way to provide a better life for his son. Jacobo, on the other hand, saw his son killed by paramilitaries and his marriage end as a result of that tragedy. He has nothing and is ready to start anew, so this is his last job before he moves out of Buenaventura and into Bogota.
The film is chameleonic insofar as it takes on a number of different forms-drug-running thriller, relational drama, and cultural profile. What's impressive-especially considering that a first-time director is at the helm-is how it doesn't give any form the short end of the stick. After a particularly tense chase scene, we're given a quiet dialogue sequence about our characters, their appallingly hopeless home lives, or their love of music, both traditional Colombian songs and pretty hardcore rap. Delio considers himself a rap artist and seeks to live the life his favorite performers glorify-a fact that lends greater depth to his powerful character arc.
The thriller elements are expertly executed, too. Wladyka smartly establishes quite early that blood can and will be spilled if the job calls for it. As a result, there's a feeling that no one is safe and anything can happen.
Killing, it seems, is something of a right of passage, and it represents a major chasm between our two brothers. Jacobo is the ultimate protector. He values life, but he'll take it if it's in the name of saving others. Delio, on the other hand, sees stars in his eyes when he finally gets to hold a gun, but he might not be as tough as he lets on. Both actors are unknowns, but they get the pitch of these two characters just right.
Of course, the film focuses on a different and unique culture, but its well-drawn tension is ultimately very accessible. One can't help but wonder if Manos Sucias is ultimately poised for an American remake, like so many other foreign action films. It doesn't need one, mind you; the film we have is plenty excellent on its own. But Hollywood would be smart to snatch up such talent as Wladyka.
Plenty of suspense in this International film about two brothers doing transportation for a Drug cartel in Buonaventura. I was surprised to find this film so entertaining, considering the simple plot. 3 stars
Was finally able to see this movie in theater. It sold out during TriBeCa and I was disappointed that I had to wait. I was surprised at how the story drew me in and the subtitles were never a distraction. I highly recommend this movie. Yes I am related to the cinematographer but if I didn't enjoy the movie I would not make this post.
Marvelously put together even if it is a tad short, it manages to convey true emotion as it tells a story thats both familiar and shocking to anyone who is familiar with the Colombian drug stories. The more humane point of view, combined with brilliant acting and a near-perfect script create a movie thats both a great story and a gripping expirience that couldnt have been told in a better way.