Men watching “4×4” might breathe a sigh of relief when Ciro, trapped inside a locked-and-bulletproof Toyota Highlander, reaches into the glove compartment and consults the owner’s manual.
Women viewers? We know you’re going to roll your eyes, so just get on with it. I mean, the guy’s been stuck inside this inescapable SUV for over two days. And after kicking and shooting at windows, dismantling doors, tearing up carpet and what not, this accomplished car thief finally does what no man ever wants to do.
He reads the owner’s manual. Sure, he ends up chewing on a few pages of it, because he’s dying of thirst and starving. But you and me, we all get the joke.
“4×4” is an Argentinian thriller that is simplicity itself — just a thief, trapped in a car he just tried to steal, harangued and lectured by the owner of the Toyota, who occasionally calls in to see how Ciro (Peter Lanzini) is doing and remind him of the “28” robberies, burglaries, kidnappings and stolen cars he’s endured in his crime-ridden corner of South America.
Dr. Enrique (Dady Brieva) has, we realize, had enough — MORE than enough. And this modified SUV, with bullet-proof tinted windows that no one can see into, soundproofed so no one can hear screams or gunshots, is designed to be Eddie Izzard-look-alike Ciro’s coffin. Maybe.
Director and co-writer Mariano Cohn has to, by rights, open this story up in the third act. But for much of the film, it’s just Ciro suffering (he injures himself), dehydrating, freezing (the doctor controls the AC, etc), trying to reason his way out and considering the mess of a life he’s had that put him in this spot.
“This place is full of poor people, with laws made by rich people and FOR rich people,” he rationalizes (in Spanish with English subtitles). Damned if he’s going to change. But man, has he screwed up and big time.
The minimalism works well in the early acts, and even the preachy finale — with its civics and socio-political debates built in — doesn’t wholly break the spell of “4×4.”
If nothing else, you’ll pick up your owner’s manual and give it a glance after seeing this one.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Peter Lanzani, Dady Brieva
Credits: Directed by Mariano Cohn, script by Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat. A Red Hound release.
Running time: 1:31