Harvey Critic - 07/08

LA SOGA (The Butcher's Son), Grade: B+

"La Soga" is on track to be the best movie about a vegetarian butcher out this year. The title figure, played by screenwriter Manny Perez, may have learned the trade of butchery from his dad, but seems so disgusted by the stench and blood on the killing room that he refuses to eat meat. Who knew he could be a poster-boy for PETA? The Dominican Republic, where Josh Crook filmed the movie, appears to have no Humane Society rules on killing animals. A 150 pound porky is "euthanized" with a knife to its heart (rather than via cutting its throat since that would release too much blood, which is of value for some reason), and this looks done in real time. A couple of cock fights ensue, and if they're not real, more power to the special effects guys.

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LA SOGA (The Butcher's Son)

7-57 Releasing

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter

By Harvey Karten

Grade: B+

Directed By: Josh Crook
Written By: Manny Perez
Cast: Manny Perez, Denise Quiñones, Paul Calderon, Juan Fernandez, Hemky Madera, Alfonso, Rodriguez, Anais Martinez, Margo Martindale, Celines Toribo, Michael Ángel Martinez
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 8/2/10
Opens: August 13, 2010

This is a violent movie centered on a revenge theme that asks, If someone kills your father twenty years ago, do you have the guts to do likewise to the murderer, or have you gone soft? There's nothing soft about Luisito aka La Soga (literally "The Rope"), unless he's near Jenny (Denise Quiñones), the love of his life, a hot woman who turns against him when she realizes what his secret job is like.

The edgy thriller features a fine soundtrack by a group called Aventura, featuring Latin Grammy award-winner Anais Martinez. The hero is handsome, manly, a ideal fellow to be working for the Dominican secret police under General Colon (Juan Fernandez). His cover is that of a killer of pigs, a task he does for the rich just before they have a party to keep the meat fresh. His real job is to take care of drug dealers who, in the words of the Dominican president are ruining the country, though his specialty while working under the powerful general is taking out those who committed crimes in the U.S., notably New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, and who are caught by the FBI and deported back to the D.R. (This is news to me: I thought crimes are dealt with in the location of their commission but apparently some foreigners who commit them are simply thrown out of the country to be handled by their own police.)

The story begins when ten-year-old Luisito (Fantino Fernandez) witnesses the murder of his his father (Miguel Angel Martinez), who taught the sensitive boy the butcher's trade. When he is kissed on the check by young Jenny (Leslie Cepeda), he is in heaven, dreaming of the time he can meet with her once again even if it takes twenty years. Two decades later, sure enough, Jenny is back, looking great, living in a mansion in the D.R.'s city of Santiago or its outskirts. She does not yet know the kind of work her man does, but his desire to escape from the gig of professional killer seems impossible as long as he is under the thumb of the general-who could have him killed with the snap of a finger.

While peppering the entire movie with gunshots, stabbings, and one murder by hypodermic needle, cinematographer Zeus Morand does most of his lensing in the slum-town of Boitoa with a few flashbacks to Washington Heights. The latter area, presumably populated by a few criminals amid the mostly Dominican residents, is policed by FBI agent Simon Burr (Joseph Lyle Taylor), affording us a few sentences in English-while the Spanish is clearly subtitled. The photography is grainy, giving the film a cinema-verité effect; the action is pulsating. Much credit goes to Renaissance man Manny Perez in the lead role and as the writer, whose previous acting role, "Washington Heights," finds him in the lead as Carlos Ramirez, itching to escape his Washington Heights neighborhood to make the scene as an illustrator in the downtown comic book world.

LA SOGA (The Butcher's Son)
Unrated. 102 minutes.

© 2010 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online

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