Chalán (Gofer): Film Review

Thin story about a corrupt Mexican legislator benefits from a strong turn by Noé Hernández

Director Grau is among the dozens of contributing directors to the upcoming genre omnibus "The ABCs of Death."

MONTREAL -- A story of survival whose hero suffers indignity, physical abuse and more, Jorge Michel Grau's Chalán uses one man's trials to depict a Mexican government so corrupt the best one can hope for is to escape the country entirely. Lacking the heft or originality that would justify attention north of the border, it does benefit from a quietly compelling lead performance by Noé Hernández (recently seen in Miss Bala).

Hernandez plays Alan, lackey to a Mexican Congressman (Juan Carlos Remolina) who's currently working to keep schoolhouses open to the high-fructose wares of the soda bottling industry. Alan's boss humiliates him routinely, despite his uncomplaining loyalty, and members of the Congressman's staff are even more petty in their abuse. (Perhaps not incidentally, Alan's features suggest he shares little of his co-workers' European ancestry.)

When the Congressman has a fight with his mistress and leaves her badly beaten, Alan attempts to take her to a hospital anonymously. Doing the right thing will get him in trouble, but Chalán -- whether due to a low budget or a lack of imagination -- goes straight from action to consequences, omitting any tension-building developments that might've made the picture feel less like a sketch for a later, larger feature. (Furthering that impression is a strange animated sequence that fills in for footage producers hoped to shoot in Congressional chambers.)

While Remolina's performance conforms to stereotypes of the deceitful, self-centered politician, Hernández projects enough working-class stoicism to give the picture some moral weight. In a fleshed-out version of this slim tale, he might have made a real impression.

Production Company: Film Tank
Cast: Noé Hernández, Juan Carlos Remolina, Ari Brickman, Luis Cárdenas, Marco Antonio Argueta, Antonio Zúñiga
Director: Jorge Michel Grau
Screenwriter: Edgar San Juan Padilla
Producers: Vérónica Novelo, Jaye Galicot
Director of photography: Alberto Anaya
Production designer: Salvador Parra
Music: Pascual Reyes
Costume designer: Andrea Manuel
Editor: Miguel Schverdfinger
Sales: Pablo Briseño, Imcine
No rating, 58 minutes

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