Red Bear
(Un Oso Rojo)

Red Bear (Un Oso Rojo)
Made in: Argentina
Language: Spanish
Director: Adrián Caetano
Starring: Julio Chavez, Soledad Villamil, René Lavand, Luis Machín, Agostina Lage
Year: 2002

Synopsis: Tough buy Rubén (Julio Chavez) is an ex-con who's trying to put his criminal past behind him. He did hard time for shooting a bunch of police officers during a bank robbery, and is trying to get his life back in order.

After being released, he returns to his home town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. It's an impoverished area, reflecting the financial hardships that gripped the country during the early 2000s.

Rubén still goes by his nickname, Oso (Bear). He finds that his ex-wife (Soledad Villamil) is now living with a man named Sergio (Luis Machín). And his daughter, Alicia (Agostina Lage), has practically forgotten who he is.

And making matters worse, Oso's former boss, "Turco" (René Lavand) owes Oso a bunch of money that he obviously has no intention of repaying. Turco is also protected by a gang of thugs, some of whom are corrupt cops.

Finding legitimate work as a cab driver, Oso also works to regain the trust of his ex-wife and to build a relationship with his daughter. But soon Oso learns that Sergio is a compulsive gambler who's deep in debt.

And on top of that, Turco is planning another robbery, and promises to score Oso enough money to help his family...if he agrees to drive the getaway car.

Remarks: Red Bear is a strong film with a well-developed, concise story. Julio Chavez plays a multidimensional character, and he does a great job expressing every subtlety in Oso's personality.

Soledad Villamil, who co-starred in the Oscar-winning El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) , also does an excellent job in her role as Alicia's mother.

The plot is pretty simple, and contains a number of genuinely touching moments between Chavez and Agostina Lage. Most of the emotional elements occur through character expressions and visuals rather than direct dialogue. But nothing should be lost on you so long as you're paying attention.

Who would like this film: Red Bear is for you if you already enjoy or are curious about foreign films. It's shot with a raw, almost documentary-like style so don't expect Hollywood gloss or slickness.

It's clearly a low-budget film, but nonetheless, it's an effective drama/thriller that moves at a good pace. And most importantly, Red Bear relies mainly on strong actors and good old fashioned, competent filmmaking to get its point across.

(3 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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