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Originally published Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 3:26 PM

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Movie review

'Carancho': a well-acted, compelling drama of temporary refuge

A movie review of the Buenos Aires-set crime drama "Carancho," starring Martina Gusman and Ricardo Darín.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Carancho,' with Ricardo Darín, Martina Gusman, Carlos Weber, Jose Luis Arias, Fabio Ronzano. Directed by Pablo Trapero, from a screenplay by Alejandro Fadel, Martin Mauregui, Santiago Mitre and Trapero. 107 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence and sexuality). In Spanish with English subtitles. Varsity.

Lujan (Martina Gusman) is a young physician, new to the big city of Buenos Aires and making her living as an ambulance medic and emergency-room doc. The strain of the long hours shows in the dark circles under her eyes, but not in her ever-steady voice, as she perpetually urges patients to calm down, to stay strong, to work with her. We see the well-worn repetition of her profession: assessing patients; asking the same questions over and over; helping to lift them from the glass-strewn ground, on a count of three.

"Carancho" introduces us to Lujan and tosses in another character who's about to mercilessly shake up her methodical world. He's Sosa (Ricardo Darín, so good in "The Secrets in Their Eyes"), an ambulance-chasing lawyer who works for a shady business, extracting signatures and then money from victims of car accidents. (We learn, in title cards preceding this movie, that Argentina is home to a staggering number of road accidents — 22 deaths a day, many more injuries — and that "the compensation market is booming.") Though Sosa initially tells Lujan, "I don't mess with doctors," the two are soon drawn toward each other, and Lujan pulled into a dangerous game.

Directed by Pablo Trapero, "Carancho" (the title is a word for vulture) is a stark, compelling crime drama, shot in lurid close-ups and leading inexorably toward a devastating end. Secrets emerge, both for Lujan and for Sosa, who find a refuge with each other that they both know can't last. It's a well-acted and swiftly unfolding tale of sirens in the night, piercing the blackness, and of weary eyes gazing at the harsh morning light.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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