Cronicas (Chronicles)

Cronicas (Chronicles) (2004)
Palm Pictures
Cast: John Leguizamo, Jose Maria Yazpik, Leonor Watling, Damian Alcazar
Extras: Audio Commentary, Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailers & Previews

Star anchorman Manolo Bonilla (John Leguizamo) of sensationalistic news telecast "One Hour with the Truth, " a program that is broadcast from Miami to all parts of Latin America, finds himself in a small Ecuadorian town, tracking a child serial killer and rapist dubbed "The Monster of Babahoyo." While on assignment with his producer Marisa (Leonor Watling) and his cameraman Ivan (Jose Maria Yazpik) they stumble across a virtual lynching brought on by a group of townsfolk after the accidental death of a young child, who was hit by traveling salesman Vinicio Cepeda (Damian Alcazar). With Vinicio being thrown into prison for his actions and Manolo becoming involved with his plight, Vinicio offers information pertaining to the case of the as yet captured child rapist and killer, claiming that he once met the disturbed individual. All Manolo has to do in exchange for the information is to simply agree to report on Vinicio's wrongful imprisonment, to be broadcast on his Miami show. Gaining new information about the child killer and rapist also dubbed the "Monstruo," or monster, leads Manolo and his newsgathering team to some shocking and bizarre discoveries.

Offering solid performances and a well written story, "Cronicas" was the official Oscar selection from Ecuador in the Best Foreign Language category, during its 2004 year of release. Although I found "Cronicas" to be rather gripping and quite entertaining all around, the ample amounts of subtitled dialogue were a bit hard to follow, causing me to miss some of the subtleties of the story within the final translation.

Palm Pictures presents "Cronicas" on DVD in a well deserving transfer offering good color saturation that provides true-to-life flesh tones. Deep rich black levels remain consistent while keeping overall contrast in check throughout the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the unblemished presentation that did not exhibit any dust particles or signs of poor compression, in short, the visuals contained on this DVD won't disappoint.

Presented quite nicely, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix offers a dominantly Spanish soundtrack with the inclusion of some English dialogue amid the presentation. Displaying naturally reproduced vocals and a decent balance among all available channels, this soundtrack compliments the films overall exhibition.

"Cronicas" comes with a good combination of special features including an audio commentary recorded with the films director, Sebastian Cordero, the nice inclusion of an alternate ending to the film along with some deleted scenes that may offer some additional thoughts to the final presentation. A making of featurette, "Soledad" recording session and photo gallery are worth a peek, as well as a still photo gallery, U.S. and Ecuadorian theatrical trailers and a selection of previews that take us to the end of the added value materials section.

If you can keep up with the quick pace of the subtitled dialogue, then you will find yourself truly rewarded with a terrific film. Watching "Cronicas," I simply knew that a second viewing would be in order to allow me to focus on and take into account all of the minor elements that are associated with this hauntingly original story. "Cronicas" is one of those rare films that I actually find myself agreeing with the overused "thumbs up" praise, which in this case, is well deserved.