“Amores Perros” (2000)

In continuing my review of the Iñárritu/Arriaga trilogy, I come to Amores Perros. I watched 21 Grams first, so I was coming into this movie expecting much of the same. In some respect, Amores Perros is very much like 21 Grams; however, there are important differences. This movie, unlike its soon-to-be-sequel, doesn’t spare any punches. It is a graphic, brutal, and downright realistic look at Mexico City from the perspective of three troubled individuals. Unlike 21 Grams, however, the characters in this movie are very separated; they are a lot less connected. In fact, the only time they are really connected is in the one car accident that represents the convergence of the stories. The idea is that this one event affects the lives of all three main characters, some more directly than others. The idea certainly does work.

Amores Perros is in Spanish, so you will be reading subtitles. The cast is all-Spanish, as well, so there are no notables to mention. The actors do, however, perform quite well. Everyone is believable in their role, and they convey the emotions necessary to make one connect with the stories. The entire movie is very raw, and the performances make it work. It is also important to note that, despite a few flashbacks, the movie is told in chronological order, unlike 21 Grams. The first story is about Octavio, a man who is in love with his brother’s wife. Octavio uses his dog’s ability to fight in underworld dogfights to raise enough money for he and his sister-in-law to skip town; however, he gets caught up with the wrong crowd and after the car accident everything turns bad. The second is about Valeria, a beautiful model who recently moved in with a magazine editor that left his wife and kids to be with her. Their happy story gets ugly quick as Valeria hurts her leg — this ends her modelling career, and complicates her obviously shallow relationship. The final story is about El Chivo, an ex-terrorist who is now a hitman and also a dog-lover. He gets involved in the affairs of others, but eventually learns that he wants to get to know his daughter that hasn’t known him since he went to prison for his terrorist past. Many critics dislike the second story, but I felt it was just as good as the rest; I would even put it above El Chivo’s. Octavio’s, however, is the clear winner in terms of emotion and story; it is just the most moving.

The aforementioned dogfights are particularly brutal and may deter some viewers. Also, the stories are a lot less connected than I was hoping (considering 21 Grams’ characters are tightly interwoven). The movie is also quite long, clocking in at more than 2.5 hours. The story rarely lags, but the pacing is a bit off. One can’t help but realize that Octavio’s story is a lot more fast-paced. Beyond that, Octavio’s story is overall better than the rest by a large margin. When watching the movie, Octavio’s story almost sets the bar too high, setting up the following stories to fail. They do not fail, however, but they are relatively weak compared with that first story. Still, Amores Perros represents a wild look at Mexico City’s diverse characters and portrays a powerful set of emotions. Just like 21 Grams, this will have you thinking for many nights afterwards. If you can get past the brutal dogfights, there is really no reason not to give this a chance. It is a staple for Spanish movies in America and truly represents something powerful.

RATING: 8 / 10