No Mercy

There have been many screen adaptations of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" over the years, most recently Aki Kaurismaki's quirky Finnish version a decade ago. Now comes a Peruvian adaptation, and it's a solid variation on the familiar story that should do good business in Latin American markets and may even cross over into arthouses in other territories.

There have been many screen adaptations of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” over the years, most recently Aki Kaurismaki’s quirky Finnish version a decade ago. Now comes a Peruvian adaptation, and it’s a solid variation on the familiar story that should do good business in Latin American markets and may even cross over into arthouses in other territories.

This updating places greater emphasis than did previous interpretations on religious aspects of the timeless yarn. Francisco J. Lombardi, who has emerged as Peru’s most consistently interesting director, frames the film around a confession that a Christ-like student, Ramon, reluctantly makes to a priest.

Though set in contemporary Lima, the story is essentially the same. Ramon is an impoverished student, struggling with his own identity and purpose in life. A meeting with Sonia, a child/woman prostitute, fills him with pity and hatred for society.

In a sudden, savage act, he kills a rich, ugly old woman and, when he stumbles on the scene, her husband. Like Raskalnikov in the original, he has a series of slightly eerie encounters with an avuncular police inspector who may or may not suspect him of the murders.

The story unfolds naturally in its new setting. Lombardi’s rather stolid pacing, however, bumps up the running time to the two-hour mark, which is a bit long for the material.

Perfs are all top-drawer, especially Diego Bertie as the tormented Ramon and Adriana Davila as the prostitute with a pure soul. Technical credits are good down the line.

No Mercy

(PERUVIAN-MEXICAN)

Production: A CIBY 2000 presentation of an Inca Films (Lima)/Amaranta Foundation of New Latin American Cinema (Mexico) production. Produced, directed by Francisco J. Lombardi. Executive producer, Gustavo Sanchez. Screenplay, Augusto Cabada, based on "Crime and Punishment," by Feodor Dostoyevsky.

Crew: Camera (color), Pili Flores Guerra; editor, Luis Barrios; music, Leopoldo La Rosa; production design, Cecilia Montiel; sound, Daniel Padilla; casting, Monica Dominguez; assistant director, Enrique Moncloa. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 20, 1994. Running time: 120 MIN.

With: With: Diego Bertie, Adriana Davila, Jorge Chiarella, Hernan Romero, Marcello Rivera, Mariella Trejos, Carlos Onetto.

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