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'Cronicas' Sets a Thriller in Ecuador


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

When an actor has portrayed the broad range of characters that John Leguizamo has, it's hard to see a new role as a change of pace. Leguizamo played a thief in the film "Regarding Henry," a drag queen in "To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything!" and the painter Toulouse Lautrec in "Moulin Rouge!" He's also staged a string of one-man plays on Broadway. Still, John Leguizamo is doing something different in the new film "Cronicas." We'll speak with the actor in just a moment, but first, Bob Mondello has this review.

BOB MONDELLO reporting:

Manolo Bonilla is handsome, smart and aggressive, the star reporter for a sensation-seeking Latino news show "One Hour with the Truth."

(Soundbite of "Cronicas")

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

MONDELLO: Right now, the big story is the Monster of Babahoyo who has tortured, raped and killed 150 children in Ecuador. Manolo is covering the latest funeral when a news story presents itself: a mob attacking the driver of a pickup truck who accidently struck and killed the twin brother of one of the victims.

(Soundbite of "Cronicas")

(Soundbite of crowd roar)

MONDELLO: His camera crew films, and at first, Manolo keeps his journalistic distance, but then he starts to orchestrate the situation, making sure the wife of the driver gets through the crowd and keeping the mob at bay for a crucial few seconds until the police can stop the violence. A humanitarian impulse, or maybe just a try at a better story?

John Leguizamo plays the celebrity journalist as if he'd been in front of cameras all his life, which, of course, he has. But he's most effective when the going gets tricky and the character realizes he might be in over his head, shifting into and out of English when talking with his camera crew and into and out of principled behavior when it suits his purposes, Manolo is at once driven and scared, happy to exploit his celebrity for the sake of a story, but worried about getting too tangled in it. He's a chameleon in panic mode, trying to hide in plain sight, a diverting spectacle, as "Cronicas" chronicles a celebrity journalist's flirtation with scandal journalism. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.