Ratas, Ratones, Rateros – Realism Without Punch

Quick Thoughts: Rodents (Ratas, Ratones, Rateros, 1999)

Made by Sebastián Cordero, this is the Ecuadorian film of the series.

Filled to the brim with plot, Ratas, Ratones, Rateros (Rats, Mice, Robbers, a.k.a Rodents) is a crime thriller of sorts that sees a petty thief follow his cousin into a life of crime of intensifying severity. Its positives concern its aesthetic and direction. Cordero puts you onto the streets of Quito, Ecuador quite efficiently with a combination of gritty camera movement, sharp editing, grimy cinematography and sharp mise en scène. Added to this the script projects both immaturity and maliciousness with sometimes striking verisimilitude. For this, Ratas, Ratones, Rateros often feels coarse, gnarled and genuine all at once.

The downfalls of this film come from its set-up: our main character isn’t very engaging. He is not complicated enough to take a distinctive, emotionally engaging arc and is written to be too naive to sell the arc he does take. This leaves the internal and external conflicts that he faces rather flat. Added to this, the antagonists of this film do not contain dimension and depth, and so fail in testing our main character and, thus, creating an intense, affecting narrative. As a result, there feels like there is too much plot in this film; a lot of things happen, and though they fill the 100+ min run-time, it doesn’t feel like much of a journey is really taken over the course of this narrative. By the end of this film, it then seems like Cordero captures a shade of social realism, but doesn’t really impress this onto the audience too well.

So, as well designed as this is, there simply isn’t enough to the script to make this a fully engaging and worthwhile experience (it really begins to drag after the 50 minutes). And though Ratas, Ratones, Rateros is seen to have played a part in re-igniting Ecuadorian filmmaking, it just doesn’t manage to capture the imagination very well. In the  end, not a terrible movie, but, simultaneously, not very memorable.

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