by Greg Muskewitz
If I thought what "Ratas, ratones, rateros" was regurgitating was overly typical, "Ciudad de M" negatively amplifies it to all the wrong extremes.A "gritty" urban tale (urban, as far as a Peruvian milieu that is), formulaic in all of the most banal respects (disrespects, maybe) about a group of friends who start off socially low, and end up even lower. M (Santiago Magill), a twentysomething, is unemployed and a loser. He puts in some halfway effort towards finding a job, but he always wants the easy way out and has no drive or motivation. He has a horny, but temperamental girlfriend (Gianella Neyra), and as soon as the moment passes, she's gone. Most of the movie concerns M's wavering back-and-forth to whether he should agree to help his friend smuggle drugs into Miami. At the start, M doesn't seem like that bad of a guy --even though the movie wasn't doing anything for me, at least it seemed like he sort of had his head on his shoulders. But that changes out of the middle of nowhere when he goes through a dramatic and drastic change, though not as drastic as the last scenes. At least where M had lost his logic and was going to do some stupid things, he still acted responsible enough so as not to get himself harmed or in trouble. ("Are you afraid of being a criminal," he's asked./ "No, I just don't want to go to jail.") Out of nowhere, near the very end, almost as if another writer just took over and did a 360 with him, he acts ridiculous and randy. It didn't fit the character at all. "Ciudad de M" is filled with large amounts, and often brutal sex and nudity, including frontal nudity and the clear site of an erection. This tries to posit that the motivation for some of the characters derives directly from drinking too much and playing violent video games. (One character, after beating a game, slams it down and pronounces he wants to rape somebody.) It seems that much of "Ciudad de M" came from certain American influences (cinematically speaking) with giant heterogeneous mismatches, with imitations of "Waiting for Godot" (more like "Waiting for Bolivian Druglord"), "Lolita" rip-offs (Melania Urbina, as Karina, wears a skimpy school-girl outfit, emulating youthy lust and desire to the older characters), down to the Americanizations of slang, like "Let's bounce." There are other jagged pieces thrown in only for the "effect" of it (hiding dope in a baby's diaper, as it's on the baby, an angel in the form of a transvestite, and other such things). Director Felipe Degregori makes his movie just as typical, as bland, as dull, as predictable, but yet still more so than "Ratas..." and any other American movie about the same sort of thing. The movie spins out of control at the end, with the opposite or negative effect of a deus ex machina and just because certain bad things happen, that isn't what the emphasis is on, and then by the denouncement, everything is okay for these characters like they deserved it. At one point, following the video game sequence, they're cruising around in a beat-up jalopy, and pick up Karina, a 15-or-so-year-old girl, and practically rape her, and they just drop her off, thinking she's dead. This character was introduced early on, a neighbor of M's, and it was made to believe that they were going to do something with her. But after the rape, her story is dropped and forgotten. We see her once later on for a couple frames, but all is disregarded and neglected. "Ciudad de M" is a pathetic and misinformed movie. It's lame by all standards, and is an embarrassment to the society, the people involved, and all of Peru. If they were smart, they would distance themselves from it. And it's too bad, because I really like Melania Urbina. She had some nice talent, wasted, but fiercely intent on showing what part of it she could. I hope to see her in something much better and adept to her talents in the future.Final Verdict: F.
"Peru would be smart to disavowal it."
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originally posted: 03/17/01 17:55:13