Movie Review - 7 Boxes

Celso Franco as Victor in "7 Boxes"
This is the debut feature of co-directors and co-writers Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori. The two are based and have set their film in the country of Paraguay. It's more specifically set in an open market where anything can be bought from food to cell phones. Maneglia and Schembori launch their camera into that market and never leave it with the exception of the final scene. The whole movie takes place all within a 24-hour period. Maneglia and Schembori with fellow co-writer Tito Chamarro concoct a scenario to keep that time period exciting or the momentum going. They feel that momentum is enough, but there are certain character motivations that lose a bit of gas.

Celso Franco stars as Victor, a teenage, Paraguay boy who works in the market pushing a wheelbarrow. He doesn't seem to work for any one particular vendor. I suppose that if he sees anyone in need or carrying a lot of products, Victor jumps to ask if he can supply his labor and wheelbarrow. Unfortunately, business doesn't seem to be too good.

Victor Sosa co-stars as Nelson, an older, Paraguay man in his mid to late 20s, maybe early 30s who appears to also work in the market pushing a wheelbarrow. Business is bad for him, but the difference is that Nelson appears to have a wife and child that he needs to support. Specifically, his child is sick and is in need of medicine, which he can't afford.

Roberto Cardozo plays Gus, a butcher at a butcher shop in the open market who has a wheelbarrow job for Nelson that involves transporting 7 boxes made of wood, but because Nelson is late at arriving, Gus gives the job and the 7 boxes to Victor. The job is for $100, which translates to a lot of guaranĂ­, the Paraguay currency. In fact, $100 is about 444,000 guaranĂ­. Nelson needs that money, so he chases after Victor. The main thrust of the action becomes Victor running away from Nelson whose pursuit becomes increasingly dangerous.

Maneglia and Schembori's movie becomes less plausible because Victor learns what's inside the 7 boxes, and what's inside is arguably more trouble than the value of $100. Nelson's threat to Victor even rises to the level that Nelson shoots at Victor, nearly killing or severely injuring him with gun fire. At some point, it becomes foolish and illogical why Victor wouldn't just give up the 7 boxes to Nelson.

Yes, Victor lives in what seems like desperately poor conditions, but you never get the sense that he's starving. Yes, $100 would be great to have, but why he wouldn't just give up the boxes doesn't follow. Maneglia and Schembori should have made more of a case for Victor's motivations for sticking with these boxes in light of all this danger.

Maneglia and Schembori suggest that Victor is simply a thrill seeker. He might also be an aspiring movie star, specifically an action-movie star. At the start of the movie, Victor is seen watching an action movie and he's mimicking the lines. At various other moments, he seems fascinated with cameras and video and even being himself on TV. He could not have known about what would happen at the very end, but the boxes to which Victor is truly connected are television boxes. Yet, his thrill seeking or movie star aspirations don't justify all this. We don't even know if Victor has a family.

We do know that Nelson has a family. His motivation is clear at first, but his escalation isn't clear. There's only one scene with Nelson's family, which sets up his motivation. For him to go from trying to get money to get medicine for his child to then him shooting a gun at another child is an arc that the filmmakers didn't develop. If they gave us more scenes of Nelson talking to his family and building up that desperation for medicine, I would buy later villainy, but without it, it makes Nelson cartoonishly evil.

Both Franco and Sosa's performances sell their desperation and character actions without those aforementioned explanations, while Maneglia and Schembori instead take time to introduce a diversity of characters to color the world in which all of this occurs. From a transgendered woman to an Asian gangster, the filmmakers do color this world with colorful characters. My favorite would have to be Jim, played by Jin Hyuk Johnny Kim, a well-built, muscular boy with a baby-face who has a crush on a young girl who works at the butcher shop and/or restaurant in the market. Jim has no lines or very little, but he's such an interesting presence.

Of all the action moments, my favorite is the very first chase scene. A boy named Tano steals one of the boxes and Victor has to run after him. The camerawork and choreography of this chase through the labyrinthine market were extremely well-done. It's stunning to see the smooth but speedy run under tables, on the same level as the tables and finally on top of tables. It's great.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for 14 and up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.


Popular Posts