Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Carlos Padilla, Leonor Varela, Xuna Primus, Gustavo Munoz, Jose Maria Yazpik, Ofelia Medina, Daniel Gimenez Cacho
Written by: Luis Mandoki, Oscar Orlando Torres, based on a story by Oscar Orlando Torres
Directed by: Luis Mandoki
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violence and some language
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/16/2004
IMDB

Innocent Voices (2005)

1 Star (out of 4)

Breaking 'Voices'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Innocent Voices nobly wishes to tell the tragic true story of how 12 year-old boys were recruited into the army during El Salvador's civil war (1980-92). But Mexican-born director Luis Mandoki, best known for Hollywood miscellany like Message in a Bottle (1999) and Angel Eyes (2001), makes hack work of it. He tells it like a coming-of-age story, but since he can't comprehend any of the true emotions of childhood, he merely patches together highlights from other coming-of-age stories and movies, winding up with an unintentionally bad "Hallmark Hall-of-Fame" movie (with an equally bad title). His lead actor, Carlos Padilla -- who plays the 11 year-old Chava -- always seems to be waiting for the next instruction from his director. He has a blank, passive quality, while Leonor Varela (Blade II, The Tailor of Panama) as Chava's mother is distractingly, movie star beautiful. There is not one cliché left unturned here, including (I'm not kidding) the mentally challenged best friend. During the frequent shootings, Mandoki dutifully switches to hand-held camera, and pours on the syrupy music whenever anyone dies. But the worst cliché comes during ludicrous ending, in which our hero's life is spared so that he can go on to write bad movie screenplays. It's horrifically unforgivable. Although it's quite a different take on the same war, Oliver Stone's Salvador (1986) is infinitely better.

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