Tuesday, February 4, 2014

From Paraguay: Maneglia and Schembori's SEVEN BOXES has charm, spirit--and body parts

If the new chase thriller SEVEN BOXES becomes the first film from Paraguay that you've seen, don't be surprised. Its creators Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori, who directed and also wrote (with some help from Tito Chamorro) are evidently well-known in their little South American country and have studied movies well and smartly and appear to have learned a lot. Their clever little film steals from just about everything else you've seen down the decades yet their setting seems so unusual and shabbily exotic and the cast of characters is such a unique mix of the quirky, creepy and sweet that you may find it very difficult not to give over to the odd charms herein.

Maneglia and Schembori (shown above, with Ms S on the right) have concocted a surprisingly complicated scenario, despite the movie's advertising tag line above (which happens not to be true), but their film-making skills are such that they allow us to easily follow the plot's many cleverly constructed convolutions.

A teenager named Victor (the spunky Celso Franco, above and on those TV Screens) thinks he has lucked into a "dream" delivery job of taking seven boxes out for a little walk from their residence in a butcher shop in order to avoid being seen by the authorities. What's in the boxes? Money or drugs, we imagine. For this, he'll earn enough dough to buy a nice cell phone. If only. (That's one of the sleazy butchers giving our boy instructions, below.)

As the plot thickens, we're introduced to Victor's sister and her very pregnant co-worker, who labor in a Chinese restaurant where the owner's son has eyes for sis (the film offers an interesting look at Asian immi-grants in Paraguay); some rather inept kidnappers; a father whose infant child needs medication, a group of nasty Paraguayan low-lifes (below), and a pert and very likable young woman who is clearly carrying a torch for our Victor (played by the very talented and spikey Lali Gonzalez).

How all these mix and mingle proves frightening, funny, surprising and exciting. The filmmakers have their pacing down pat, and their cast delivers good performances first to last. Once the wheels (and wheelbarrows used for delivery) are set in motion, the movie clicks and clacks along like an unstoppable locomotive.

A kind of coming-of-age tale, Seven Boxes' ace-in-the-hole is how much charm and spirit it provides, which is particularly commendable, considering how grizzly the goings-on become. Yet the film's sweetness easily surmounts its body count.

Seven Boxes, from Breaking Glass Pictures and running 100 minutes, opens in theaters (the listing is shown below) this Friday, February 7, and simultaneously will be available via VOD and iTunes.

In New York City--Cinema Village;  Los Angeles, CA--Downtown Independent;  Pasadena, CA--Laemmle Playhouse 7; Chicago, IL--Siskel Film Center; Sante Fe, NM--Jean Cocteau Cinema; Scottsdale, AZ--Harkins Shea. The following Friday, February 14, look for it in Toronto, ON--Carlton Cinema; Miami, FL--Coral Gables Art Cinema; Saskatoon, SK--Roxy Theater; and elsewhere across the country & Canada in the weeks ahead.

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