Part relentlessly dehumanizing immigration movie, part identity theft thriller, Christopher Zalla's stylish Sundance-winning debut (originally titled Padre Nuestro) picks apart its male protagonists' fractured psyches. An outstanding Latin drum-fueled opening chase–only the most obvious similarity between this film and City of God–sets the terms of their personality crises. The pursuit of money hurtles Zalla's male trio across borders, through life and identities.
Evading his chasers, Juan (Armando Hernandez) befriends Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola) in a northbound shipping container. Upon arrival in Brooklyn, Juan finds Pedro's estranged father and poses as his son. The film then charts the two men's (mis)fortunes, Juan's relationship with Pedro's father Diego (Jesus Ochoa), and Pedro's fraught exchanges with local squatter and sex worker Magda (Paola Mendoza). Though Sangre's immigration politics are well developed, the gender issues raised by the Magda character remain frustratingly unexplored. Throughout, the action unfolds in moody monochromes, with alternately blue-, gray- and golden-hued scenes. Cinematographer Igor Martinovic puts his artistry on full display, reveling in expressive zooms, instinctual handheld movements and an isolating focus.
Such technical prowess reinforces characters' unstable situations while Zalla's hybrid immigration-and-identity-theft script keeps the moving parts in flux. After all, what better occasion to remake oneself or replace another than the complete identity erasure experienced by so many undocumented entrants? The three men–hulking hardworker Diego, trusting loser Pedro and trickster Juan–assume different compromised identities formed in response to the demands of a society driven by the bottom line. If money makes the man, these marginalized characters are never completely themselves–or someone else, for that matter.