A Common Crime, 2020.
Directed by Francisco Márquez.
Starring Elisa Carricajo, Mecha Martinez and Eliot Otazo.
A woman is tormented by guilt when she comes to believe that her actions contributed to someone being killed.
Genre fans would be forgiven for getting excited during the opening moments of A Common Crime. The movie rolls its opening credits over images of the likes of Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein and King Kong as a child moves through the dark of a funfair ghost train. Anyone hoping for more chills in the 90 minutes to come will be sorely disappointed. This is a turgid, dramatically inert thriller that makes those 90 minutes feel like 90 days.
Cecilia (Elisa Carricajo) is a teacher in Argentina, who employs housekeeper Nebe (Mecha Martinez) and has a close relationship with her. One night, she hears a hammering on her front door and glimpses someone who appears to be Nebe’s adult son Kevin (Eliot Otazo) through the window. Spooked by the late hour and the darkness, she hides from view and doesn’t open the door. The next day, Kevin has gone missing and is later found dead. It transpires that he has been harassed by police in recent weeks and that it’s highly likely they were responsible for his death. Plagued by visions she can’t explain, Cecilia must deal with the guilt stemming from her inaction.
There’s obviously a political core to this story. Director Francisco Márquez – who also co-wrote the script with Tomás Downey – uses this tale to weave a commentary on the way middle class people are often unwilling to go the extra mile to help those who are less privileged. Cecilia is shown to be sympathetic to Nebe and Kevin, happy to walk around their supposedly rough neighbourhood unaccompanied, when even taxi drivers refuse to pass through. However, her sympathy and friendliness is framed as not being enough. When push came to shove, her door stayed closed.
Ideologically then, A Common Crime is a very interesting story indeed. Sadly, very little of that intrigue feeds into the way in which the story is told. Márquez has concocted a slow burn that barely fizzles. It’s a movie willing to flirt with genre, without ever having the courage to commit to executing the tropes to which it nods its head. If it had the courage to be a full-blooded horror or an escalating paranoid thriller, the result would almost certainly be more compelling than this soporific trudge.
It doesn’t help that the movie seems unwilling to ever really delve into Cecilia’s psyche. Carricajo delivers a solid enough performance, but it never feels like the script gives her any opportunities to deepen the character beyond the surface. Márquez traps the characters within his boxy, 4:3 aspect ratio as Cecilia’s mental state fractures and she becomes increasingly confused. As with so many elements of the story, it’s the right idea, let down by poor execution.
That’s the story when it comes to A Common Crime. The building blocks are there for a complex, enthralling dark thriller with political insight – particularly given the prominence of the discussion around police brutality in the wake of George Floyd and the protest movement provoked by his killing. The problem is that this movie doesn’t live up to any of its potential and emerges as a rather dreary trudge, leading to nothing much at all.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.