`Carancho' is the new film from Argentinian director Pablo Trapero. The film begins with some startling statistics, where over 8,000 deaths and 120,000 people are injured on Argentinian roads every year. Set in Buenos Aires in what appears to be a deeply corrupt system, the insurance companies, lawyers, the medical profession and the police are all in on the scam to defraud as many unsuspecting accident victims as possible.
The `Carancho's' prey on victims who are usually the poorest and most vulnerable, who do not have the means or education to know any better. One of these `Carancho's' is Sosa (Ricardo Darin), an ambulance-chasing ex-lawyer who works for the "Foundation", a crooked organisation posing as a charity. They mediate between insurance companies and offer huge pay-outs to the accident victims, but in fact exploit them and take the lions share of the pot.
Sosa meets Luján (Martina Gusmán), a young doctor who supplements her day job of working in a hospital by doing night shifts in an ambulance. Initially, they both seem poles apart when they meet at an accident. But they are both as damaged as each other, sharing the pain of dealing with the same injured patients. Luján needs emotional support to sustain her through an impossibly demanding job, often injecting drugs to cope and stay awake. Sosa knows that what he is doing is wrong, but its payback for previous misdemeanours. Luján gives him the moral determination to finish his job and move on, but there are complications.
`Carancho' is a claustrophobic and brutally frank film. But its not all grim in Buenos Aires, Sosa and Lujáns relationship gives the film a sense of hope. There's a lovely scene when Sosa persuades Luján to meet for a coffee after work, in what could have been yet another car-crash incident but instead focuses on them flirting the morning away. The strong performances from the pairing of Darin and Luján add real weight to this film.
`Carancho' is far from a perfect film but it has some memorably tense scenes, in particular the opposing gangs fighting in the hospital. The final frenetic third of the film is often comicly predictable, but you have to admire the wild execution of the final set of sequences to end the film.