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Kill Them All

The politics heavily outweigh the thrills in "Kill Them All," about a lone femme lawyer taking on a corrupt government.

The politics heavily outweigh the thrills in “Kill Them All,” about a lone femme lawyer taking on a corrupt government, but there’s enough going on beneath its conventions to ensure that curiosity is maintained over the first hour — after which it all goes slack. Tackling in some detail one small part of the legacy of Latin America’s late-20th century political nightmare, pic lacks a broader view that might carry it out into wider waters, while its determination not to stray from the political and emotional truth, though laudible, leaves it looking dramatically too flat to pull in general auds.

Far from the gorefest its title suggests, “Kill Them All” is the startling backstory to the real-life discovery, in 1995, of a body on a Uruguayan beach. Following a brief onscreen explanation of the wider historical context, yarn rolls back two years, where Berrios (Claudio Arredondo), whose body it was, runs to the local police station, where he explains that his life is in danger.

Turns out Berrios is a Chilean chemical engineer who worked for Pinochet’s secret police. He has been kidnapped and removed from Chile to Uruguay, where soldier Robaina (Arturo Fleitas) is to keep him from testifying against the Chilean authorities.

Lawyer Santacruz (Jorge Bolani) entrusts his former student Julia (Roxana Blanco) with the case. Her attempts to shed light are frustrated from the start — Berrios’ statement has had ink spilled over it, and the Chilean embassy refuses to cooperate.

Working alongside exiled Chilean journalist Jimenez (Patricio Contreras), Julia starts to put the jigsaw puzzle together. An open-ended conclusion forcefully brings home the pic’s pointregarding changes in govenment.

There’s enough material here for a trilogy. But history rarely develops its intitial premises in dramatically satisfying ways, and that’s the problem with the pic’s later reels — there’s just too much of Julia battering at doors that refuse to open.

Eventually, the script turns to the damaging effects of all this on Julia’s family life — convincingly, but not very interestingly, she seeks solace in the arms of her former lover, militant Alejandro (Dario Grandinetti), while her relationship with her brother Ivan (Cesar Troncoso) worsens.

The two central perfs are fine, though Blanco, with the script pushing her remorselessly from one crisis to another, sometimes struggles to suggest the full force of her inner conflict. When she does slow down, it’s only to swim up and down a pool, isolated, while her motives in making her life-threatening commitment to the case are never explained. Reyno, as he showed in Fabian Bielinsky’s swansong “The Aura,” is a powerful, chilling presence even when repping an ailing 75-year-old.

On the tech side, things are efficient but unremarkable, with lensing using long shots to sometimes potent effect.

Kill Them All

Chile - Argentina - Uruguay

  • Production: An Esteban Schroeder y Asociados, Guazu-Media (Uruguay)/Morocha Films (Argentina)/Parox (Chile)/Sur Films (Germany) production. (International sales: Esteban Schroeder y Asociados, Montevideo). Produced by Esteban Schroeder, Sergio Gandara, Yvonne Ruocco, Pablo Salomon, Gonzalo Rodriguez Bubis, Detlef Ziegert. Directed by Esteban Schroeder. Screenplay, Pablo Vierci, Alejandra Marino, Daniel Henriquez.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Sergio Armstrong; editor, Soledad Salfate; music, Martin Pavlovsky; art director, Paula Villalba; sound (Dolby Digital), Ernesto Trujillo. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 26, 2007 . Running time: 97 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Roxana Blanco, Walter Reyno, Cesar Troncoso, Maria Izquierdo, Dario Grandinetti, Arturo Fleitas, Claudio Arredondo, Jorge Bolani, Alejandro Paz, Federico Wilche, Maria Izquierdo.
  • Music By: