10:55 AM EST, February 6, 2014
Run Victor run! A swift and clever thriller from Paraguay, "7 Boxes" joins a list of diversions from all over the world — the German "Run Lola Run"; the Philippine "Slingshot"; and such Hollywood entertainments as "Premium Rush" — built for speed, organized chaos and headlong velocity.
Filmmakers Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori set their story in the street bazaar known as Market No. 4, a few ramshackle and teeming city blocks located in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion. Here, 17-year-old Victor scrambles to make a living as a delivery boy. No bike; no truck; just a wheelbarrow. Bushy-haired, eagle-eyed Celso Franco plays Victor; his sometime ally, Liz, is portrayed by Lali Gonzalez.
Victor's hired by a shady and increasingly desperate market butcher to haul seven sealed crates to a destination to be named later. He needs the money to buy a fancy cellphone, for him a symbol of the glamorous life presently evading him. However, he doesn't realize the world of trouble about to come his way thanks to the crates' contents. Those contents are revealed about one-third the way through "7 Boxes."
The key to the film's success lies in its broad scope and deft juggling of competing interests. Shot in an expedient cellphone-aesthetic visual style, sometimes with the camera planted at the front end of Victor's pushcart in dizzying motion, the movie manages quick-and-dirty introductions to all the major players in an increasingly bloody game. One of the local cops flirts with the cellphone saleswoman; a fry cook at a Chinese food stand struggles with ninth-month birth pangs. All play a part in Victor's adventure, and once a price is put on the boy's head, the running begins in earnest.
You wait for months, sometimes, for a movie to show you something new. "7 Boxes" does exactly that, and while it's no more than a briskly managed bit of escapism, it's a really good example of same. Asuncion's warren-like marketplace provides tremendous visual interest; cinematographer Richard Careaga maintains a realistic palette, but the crazed point-of-view shots are unpredictable and welcome. Much of the dialogue, spoken in Spanish and Guarani, sticks to the necessities, to wit: "Follow him!" Or: "Get out of my way!" But a film such as "7 Boxes" does not put a viewer in the mood for introspective monologues. As an indieWIRE reviewer put it, it's "The Fast and the Furious" with wheelbarrows, and its two-week run at the Gene Siskel Film Center deserves an audience.
"7 Boxes" - 3 1/2 stars
No MPAA rating (violence, language)
Running time: 1:45; in Spanish and Guarani with English subtitles.
Opens: Friday and continues through Feb. 20 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.
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