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Worth A Look: 25.41%
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8 reviews, 74 user ratings

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Amores Perros
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by EricDSnider

"The word 'gritty' was made for this movie."
5 stars

The first moments of “Amores Perros” are frantic and chaotic as two men drive wildly through heavy traffic with a bleeding dog in their backseat and a pickup truck carrying a man with a gun pursuing them. The scene ends with a bone-crunching car wreck, and then the movie REALLY begins, showing us the lives of several different people who all have a connection to that accident.

“Octavio y Susana” is the on-screen title of the first segment, which shows us what led to the high-speed chase. Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), the car’s driver, is a directionless young man living with his brother Ramiro (Marco Perez) and Ramiro’s wife, the fetching Susana (Vanessa Bauche). Ramiro is violent and unpleasant, working part-time at a grocery store and spending his evenings robbing convenience stores. There is no love lost between the brothers, and the tension in that small apartment is palpable.

Octavio is not-too-secretly in love with his sister-in-law, and certainly treats Susana better than Ramiro does. When she gets pregnant, she realizes she doesn’t want to be stuck with Ramiro anymore, and she finally consents to run off with Octavio.

But how to get out of town? They’ll need money. Ramiro and Octavio have a brutish dog called Cofi who turns out to be a champion at ripping other canines’ throats out, and Octavio makes money on the underground dog-fighting circuit.

He also runs afoul of a dog owner whose animals keep getting destroyed by Cofi, which is what leads to the car chase.

But who was in the car that Octavio wound up running into? That’s the subject of the next segment, “Daniel y Valeria,” which, instead of showing us what led to the accident, gives us only a brief backstory and then focuses on the aftermath.

Valeria (Goya Toledo) is a successful model carrying on a secret affair with a married man named Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero). He leaves his wife and they get an apartment together, just in time for the accident, which leaves her right leg shattered. Their romantic, exciting life together is slapped into reality as Daniel is faced with the daily chores of helping Valeria get around, and as Valeria herself must deal with being scarred and unable to work anymore.

The last chunk is called “El Chivo y Maru,” and it focuses on a disheveled old man who can be seen in the periphery in the other stories. El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) was once a guerilla who now occasionally does murder-for-hire work. He lives with his dogs in an old shack and secretly pines for his estranged daughter, who doesn’t know he’s alive.

The title of the film is translated as “Love’s a Bitch,” though “perros” also has the innocuous meaning of “dogs,” which also works. Every story has dogs acting as catalysts for the major action: Octavio’s dog helps him raise money to run off with Susana; Valeria and Daniel fight over her yappy terrier that gets stuck under the floorboards of the house; El Chivo’s dogs suffer at the hand -- er, paw -- of another.

It’s ultimately rather hopeful, but the film is drenched in cynicism, as you might expect with a title like “Love’s a Bitch.” As El Chivo puts it, “To make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Everything goes wrong, and nothing turns out the way we expected. It’s enough to make you laugh -- which the film often does. Ironic twists and painful discoveries are usually laughably heartbreaking.

First-time director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu has an astonishing visceral sensibility; the word “gritty” was invented for this film, particularly in Octavio’s story, where you can practically feel the grime and filth wash over everything. (The second story focuses on people of a higher social class, where it’s their souls that are dirty, not their surroundings.) Hand-held cameras and bleached-out colors remind one of that other recent Mexico-based gritty film, “Traffic.”

Kudos also to screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, who has developed a crackerjack tale full of good old-fashioned storytelling. It’s rare to see a movie so unabashedly plot-heavy and intricate, and the narrative style is fantastic. The non-linear storytelling and intersecting plots are nice, but I’m more impressed with the way characters creep in unexpectedly and in a way that makes you wait patiently to find out how the fit.

The first story, for example, while focusing on Octavio and Susana, also shows intriguing glimpses of El Chivo and Daniel -- without explaining who they are or why we should pay attention to them. But the sheer force of the characters is so strong that we pay attention anyway.

Strong, dignified acting is the rule here. One feels respect for these people regardless of whether they deserve it, because even the scoundrels are portrayed with humanity.

For as cynical as “Amores Perros” can be, it has an underlying warmth that elevates it to greatness.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4941&reviewer=247
originally posted: 05/17/01 15:31:20
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User Comments

1/01/10 Norm Descoteaux A film for the ages 5 stars
4/28/08 victor l have not watch the film 5 stars
4/13/08 mr.mike Good , not great. 3.5 out of 5 stars. 4 stars
11/15/06 David Intense and gripping film. 5 stars
9/16/06 Christopher No animals were harmed in the making of this movie? As far as we know…However dogs were in 1 stars
8/27/06 Sonia Strashun Stories that stay with you. 5 stars
5/29/06 kelly blackwell Gael Garcia Bernal...Super Hunky!!!! 5 stars
3/23/06 luis wow no mames......................chida, chida ,chida, sin comentarios 5 stars
12/05/05 Gene Carmean Outstanding 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Spellbinding in its imagery and intersecting stories. its beauty and depth. 5 stars
8/10/05 LIZ THAT CRAP WAS RAW 5 stars
7/20/05 Chris Interesting 5 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands IN-CRED-IBLE!!! 5 stars
10/29/04 María P. Película altamente recomendable... 4 stars
10/26/04 Oscar fue una pelicula gran que me cautivo hasta el final como se unieron las historias 5 stars
10/16/04 Mandy it's just VERY good! 5 stars
8/11/04 Jen esa pelicula esta chingonsisima 5 stars
8/05/04 Maureen Don't miss it! 5 stars
7/30/04 Dave Reed Very entertaining 5 stars
7/16/04 patricia rogosich so fucking awesome. a must see 5 stars
5/24/04 Ian Ratcliffe Great film - imensely intelligent 5 stars
5/19/04 Elizabeth Lozano Great Movie from a mexican director 5 stars
4/16/04 Morally Sound Amazing! 5 stars
12/22/03 smartmusician a brutal yet powerful film. I was Blown away by its greatness and realism 5 stars
12/16/03 Jonny Sycamore Best latin american film ive seen yet 5 stars
8/15/03 Headhunter the best movie i have ever seen 5 stars
7/05/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back MoFos!!!) Extremely arresting, very powerful, full 3-D characters & story, and EXCELLENT direction!!! 5 stars
5/13/03 marienil jo z. ballozos i did'nt understand tha ending. 5 stars
3/26/03 Krishna Sadasivam average movie - interesting characters, but suffers from excessive length. 3 stars
3/17/03 Maegs I adored this movie 5 stars
2/24/03 Ana Mar In order to appreciate the movie, the viewer has to see beyond the dog fights and violence 5 stars
2/22/03 Goofy Maxwell All the temerity and turpitude of a rabid mongrel, all the logic of a dog playing poker. 4 stars
12/31/02 Andy Todes greg (usually the voice of reason), what are you talking about here, man? 5 stars
12/02/02 shikita you dont see stories like this to often, it rocks!!! 5 stars
12/02/02 Saul A person with a true understanding of film will understand whi I gave it "awsome".. 5 stars
11/15/02 Big Ted Wow. Awesome filmmaking. 5 stars
11/14/02 nikita super!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/12/02 assassin. it is real. 5 stars
11/01/02 liz lost not only did i like the fact that Gael was in it, but it was a nice theme, well made 5 stars
10/08/02 mirko lujan a film I sure respet after "fight club" with edwart norton and brat pitt! 5 stars
6/24/02 Robbie Banfitch I like pizza. 5 stars
6/12/02 natasha animal lovers beware: realistic, bloody dogfights 4 stars
4/02/02 Reini Urban Deeper and more serious than Pulp Fiction 5 stars
3/22/02 Milagros Gael is fucking Fine oh man he is orgazmic i got an orgazm just looking at his picture 5 stars
3/12/02 Faith Bernal has made it, cynic. 5 stars
3/06/02 Alan Smithee One of the move amazing movies that I've seen in recent memory. 5 stars
2/12/02 Jen Big WOW 5 stars
1/18/02 Daniel Orgasmic. 5 stars
12/27/01 Robert Classic 5 stars
12/12/01 Dominik Duprelle Full blooded, a masterful story superbly told, a real surprise-highly recommended 5 stars
12/03/01 slappy jacks fucking awesome 5 stars
9/30/01 The Bomb 69 great storytelling, intertwining stories have been before but this was done well 5 stars
7/22/01 David Seddon Wonderful - falls into a similar camp as 'Magnolia'. 5 stars
7/22/01 ^Elendil^ It's been a long time since I forgot that I was just watching a movie. 5 stars
7/15/01 bilal karaman great movie. it can't be told just see it. 5 stars
7/04/01 Paul Brilliant, especially in sustaining three stories with equal interest 5 stars
6/22/01 Ian Barr Rivetting filmmaking. An exceptional debut feature 5 stars
6/13/01 Ulysses Ramirez Best Movie I've ever seen in my life 5 stars
6/02/01 Blubberbot Some parts are good others bad. Too long. Super violent. 3 stars
5/20/01 skye great debut. fine flick 5 stars
5/06/01 kanji Unique! Non-Hollywood film! Real Life. 5 stars
5/05/01 Heather Similar to Tarantino, Run Lola, well worth looking out for 5 stars
4/28/01 gerardo the best movie in many years 5 stars
4/24/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Excruciating at times (particularly the deaths of the dogs), but intricate and intelligent. 4 stars
4/21/01 Yvette Fantastic 5 stars
4/18/01 Jessica Romero Spectacular! Best movie I 5 stars
4/16/01 Mr. X Pretty good stories. But it is one of the most horrific films I've seen recently. 4 stars
4/14/01 rafael any comparison w/pulp fiction is stupid!!! 5 stars
4/07/01 Jose A. Contreras It is a very good film. But I totally agree: The second story is not as interesting as 2. 4 stars
4/06/01 gabriela amazing film! 5 stars
4/04/01 Michelle Munro I recently got a chance to see this film at the FIU Miami Film Festival. I enjoyed it. 5 stars
4/03/01 Monday Morning Anything involving cruelty to animals, especially dogs, gets a hearty "fuck you" from me. 1 stars
4/01/01 Aya Must see - as painful and beautiful as life is sometimes 5 stars
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  12-Apr-2001 (M)

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