Des­o­late in story, dis­tant in feel­ing

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - — Gary Goldstein

It could be said that the re­lent­lessly bleak crime drama “La Granja” (Span­ish for “the farm”) leaves too much seen and not enough heard. That’s be­cause this filmic trip­tych set in the im­pov­er­ished, drug-de­pen­dent bar­rios of Puerto Rico es­chews emo­tional di­men­sion for vis­ceral ac­tions and the­matic wal­lops.

Writer-di­rec­tor An­gel Manuel Soto has much on his mind about his na­tive is­land’s so­cioe­co­nomic woes. But un­like such other tough­minded an­thol­ogy films as “Amores Per­ros” or “21 Grams,” this movie’s more ex­ter­nal ap­proach lim­its our im­mer­sion into Soto’s gritty, provoca­tive story.

“La Granja’s” three tales of crime-re­lated ac­tiv­ity over­lap, some­times more ran­domly than oth­ers, as an ar­ray of des­per­ate char­ac­ters jour­ney into dark­ness. They in­clude a bar­ren nurse (Am­neris Mo­rales) who takes a heinous route to moth­er­hood, a re­tired pro boxer (César Galín­dez) who is train­ing his teenage son (José R. Rolón) to win a box­ing match in or­der to pay off a cock­fight­ing debt to a heart­less bookie (John Gar­cía), and a quiet young drug mule (Henry Osso) who be­comes en­meshed with his junkie step­sis­ter (Yu­lianna Padilla) and her drug dealer boyfriend (Mar­cos Car­los Cin­trón).

Strik­ing im­ages of sex and vi­o­lence com­bine with an of­ten ef­fec­tive sense of dread as these grim story lines un­fold. But with­out suf­fi­cient con­text and psy­cho­log­i­cal un­der­pin­ning, less proves de­cid­edly less. “La Granja.” In Span­ish with English sub­ti­tles. Not rated. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 41 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle Mon­ica Film Cen­ter, Santa Mon­ica.

Break­ing Glass Pic­tures

THE BLEAK trip­tych fo­cuses on the des­per­ate char­ac­ters of Puerto Rico’s poverty-stricken bar­rios.

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