Review by Sean Boelman
Having debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the Argentine crime dramedy The Delinquents became its country’s submission for the Best International Film Oscar. While it’s refreshing to see writer-director Rodrigo Moreno take such an unorthodox approach to its genre, the laid-back nature gives way to an air of nonchalance that is difficult to overlook.
The movie follows two bank employees whose lives are fundamentally changed after one of them becomes fed up with his monotonous life and decides to steal enough money to retire. While this may sound like the set-up to a heist movie — and to an extent, it is — this portion lasts only about a half hour, with the rest of the runtime being focused on the quiet aftermath.
Ultimately, the biggest thing working against The Delinquents is its length. Clocking in at right around three hours excluding credits, there’s really not a lot of reason for this to be as long as it is. The first hour and a half are effective, if slight, but the back half of the film meanders. Although the purpose of this more meditative is clear, it is too lacking in personality to work.
That being said, the movie does manage to give us two protagonists who are very compelling. Moreno uses parallelisms — in both the script and the editing — to connect the arcs of these two men. Part of what makes this film work is that Moreno is so effectively able to make us care about these characters individually, while also weaving the arcs together in a way that is easy to get invested in.
Both actors also give phenomenal performances. Esteban Bigliardi is the bigger standout of the two, giving a quieter, sadder turn, but Daniel Elías brings an ineffable charm to his character. Legendary character actor Germán De Silva also shines in the supporting cast in his dual role — a casting decision that is extremely bold, but pays off extremely well by adding an element of absurdity to the movie.
The Delinquents is at its best when it interrogates the system that has driven people to such feelings of hopelessness. Early in the film, one character asks “three and a half years in prison, or a lifetime in the bank,” referring to the fact that he would do less jail time for his crime than it would take to earn the money he stole legitimately. It’s an eye-opening fact that serves as the foundation for the anti-capitalist sentiments of the messaging.
All the below-the-line aspects of the movie are on point as well. The cinematography is great, with the second half being where it stands out the most aesthetically — almost making up for the fact the sense of inertness of the script in this portion. The editing is also quite strong, doing a great job of making this undeniably complex story feel simple.
The Delinquents is definitely a well-made film. It’s well-shot, well-acted, and well-written. However, there’s a disconnect — likely owing to the bloated runtime — that prevents it from ever having the impact it deserves.
The Delinquents hits theaters on October 18.