Published Apr 02, 2009Introduced as a gritty gangland picture akin to City of God and developing into a semi-romantic chase film, Sin Nombre streamlines roughness without pandering to the audience. While not reaching City's panoramic view of gang life, the picture paints a realistic, if episodic, look into inner city Mexico and those who travel through it in search of a better life.
In the film, this includes the locals who join the proud criminal gangs that provide a false sense of security, and those who journey on train tops in hopes of crossing the U.S. border.
Sin Nombre (meaning "the nameless," in Spanish) focuses on Casper (Edgar Flores), a young man with the gang La Mara Salvatrucha in the Tapachula ghetto. After recruiting the 12-year-old Smiley (Kristian Ferrer), Casper finds himself at increasing odds with the gang leader, culminating in tragedy. Leaving behind his gang in the wake of a botched robbery, he converges with Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a young woman from the Honduras, reuniting with her father on a risky train-top journey to the United States border. A wary bond forms as Casper flees his former gangland brothers.
While shot on a limited budget, the film manages a slick storytelling style that makes for an enjoyable watch. Fukunaga introduces the Mexican gangland life as a truly terrifying brotherhood. The story flows from each mood and idea to the next in an engaging fashion, even if one is never truly moved. The staginess of the performances from the two young leads increases as their characters' relationships progress. However, Fukunaga (who also wrote the script) is wise in avoiding embellishments of the pathos of Casper's imminent confrontation.
"Executive produced" by Mexican Y Tu Mamá También heartthrobs Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, in an obvious (but well-intentioned) bid for attention, hopefully such measures will entice an audience for this elegantly entertaining film. (Alliance)