Victor (newcomer Celso Franco) is a 17-year-old wheelbarrow leader who dreams of becoming famous and who is often absorbed by the television in the appliance store in the municipal market where he can often be found. One day, he receives an unusual yet seemingly simple proposal - carry 7 boxes of unknown content in exchange for a torn half of a $100 bill, an unimaginable amount of money for the young man.
He will get the other half when he finishes the job.
Maybe I should say if.
With a borrowed cell phone that the contractor uses to tell him the way, Victor embarks on his journey to cross a mere eight blocks (don't think of the Bruce Willis film. Really) of the market. It seems easy, but things get incredibly complicated. Perhaps not surprisingly, there's something in those 7 boxes that starts a high-speed wheelbarrow chase in the secret and gloomy corridors of the market. Without even realizing it, Victor and those who pursue him will become involved in a crime for which they have no knowledge.
7 Boxes is a major snag for Philly-based indie distributor Breaking Glass Pictures, an award-winning film and festival favorite that was certified fresh on RottenTomatoes.com and was nominated in the Goya Awards for Best Ibero-American Film while also picking up prizes at fests such as Miami Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Lima Latin American Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and the Skip City International D-Film Festival.
It's truly no surprise. 7 Boxes is one terrific film featuring a fantastic debut from Celso Franco, whose performance as Victor is the perfect centerpiece for a film that features ample doses of action, thrills, and even some good old fashioned romance. Set in Paraguay and in Spanish with English subtitles, 7 Boxes is an expertly layered film directed with confidence and sensitivity by first time feature co-directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori. The directors seem to instinctively trust that even amidst the film's twists and turns and darker elements that there's an element of humor here that really needs to come to life.
Boy, does it.
Victor is followed by a thief, a rival with his gang, the mobsters who own the merchandise in question, the police, a Korean waiter (really!), and an overly curious female friend.
Richard Careaga's lensing is somehow both gritty and breathtaking, while Fran Villalba's original music manages to weave together the perfect balance of a techno musical score with a decidedly local flavoring. While there are moments where true cineastes will be able to identify the filmmakers' influences, think Hitchcock and some more contemporary names, they've certainly given 7 Boxes an identity all its own while also filling the film to the brim with unmistakable messages about greed, power, technology, and all the masks that our culture uses to keep those living in poverty caught within that cycle.
7 Boxes is far more than simply another entertaining film. It's an action/thriller that makes you think and a sensitive, romantic film that makes feel deeply. While Franco's top notch performance guides the film, there's an ensemble cast that truly brings it to unforgettable life in every frame.
If you get the chance, you definitely want to check out 7 Boxes.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic