San Sebastian International Film Festival

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- This first feature by Andres Baiz, representing Colombia in the Best Foreign Language Oscar derby, purports to explore the so-called Pozzetto Massacre in Colombia in which when a former Vietnam veteran killed 29 people in unexplained circumstances. The U.S. army vet went berserk with a gun in a crowded restaurant in 1986 after writing a literary criticism of "The Strange Case of Dr, Jekyll and Mr Hyde" by Robert Lewis Stevenson. No one knows why.

While the movie itself is a well-made crime drama that packs a punch, Baiz fails to coherently link the killer's case with questions about the fatal urge of people's deepest desires. Indeed the filmmaker leaves himself open to charges of exploitation.

"Satan" has good boxoffice potential in Latin America and other Spanish-speaking markets. It's lack of subtlety and obscure subject matter may limit its potential elsewhere.

The movie examines several stories: A priest who struggles with his secret lust for his housekeeper; a woman who lures wealthy businessmen into the hands of robbers; and the Vietnam vet Eliseo (Damian Alcazar), who harbors desires for his English student. These three stories appear unrelated until right at the end when all main characters find themselves in the same restaurant just as Eliseo starts blasting. Even then their meeting feels forced.

The film is spiced with extreme violence that bears seemingly little connection to the plot. A rape is played for maximum impact and minimum relevancy. If the revenge by Paola (Marcela Mar) against her rapists is meant to show how she gives in to her a base instinct, it is not clear. Similarly, when the priest attacks a tramp, it seems a simple shock tactic from the director.

If Baiz wants the audience to meditate on how man is tempted to sin, this Faustian question seems at odds in a film that never gives an audience time to ponder such matters. He seems keen to pack so much extreme violence and sex as to give his audience no time to draw a breath, much less ponder a deeper meaning.

Baiz does know how to put together a slick product. Though the film's three stories appear to have little connection, he slips from one to the other with ease. Mauricio Vidal's photography is excellent. Opening shots of the market in bustling downtown Bogota are stark and in vivid colors. A haunting score by Angelo Milli lingers in the mind long after the credit crawl.

Rionegro Producciones D.F (Mexico) with the Little Film Company
Writer/director: Andres Baiz
Based on the novel by: Mario Mendoza
Director of photography: Mauricio Vidal
Production design: Jual Carlos Acevedo
Music: Angelo Milli
Costume designer
Luz Helena Cardenas
Editor: Alberto del Toro
Eliseo: Damian Alcazar
Blanca: Teresa Gutierrez
Valeria: Patricia Castaneda
Irene: Isabel Gaona
Tendero: Alvaro Garcia
Taxista: Hector Garcia
Natalia: Martina Garcia
Paola: Marcela Mar
Padre Ernesto: Blas Jaramillo
Pablo: Andres Parra
Alicia: Marcela Valencia
Alberto: Diego Vasquez
Beatriz: Vicky Hernandez
Running time -- 95 minutes
No MPAA rating