A cat-and-mouse thriller imported from Paraguay, "7 Boxes" evokes the developing-world amorality and senseless crime caper of "City of God," the 2002 Brazilian sensation that earned four Academy Award nominations, including one for Fernando Meirelles' slick, hyper-stylized direction. But whereas Meirelles seemed to apply absolutely every cinematic trick in the book, "7 Boxes" directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori aren't as hell-bent on making an impression.
Their film boasts a rather universal premise: Teenager Victor (Celso Franco) covets a used camera phone that he can't afford. So he leaps at the opportunity when a butcher named Gus (Roberto Cardozo) dangles an American $100 bill in his face and tasks him with taking seven suspicious wooden crates out for a stroll on a wheelbarrow while the police search the meat market.
Reliably, Victor encounters every detour imaginable before all dots connect for his arrival at the inevitable. Given the routineness of the chase itself, what jumps out here is the pervasive desperation shared by just about every character. Within the film's universe, people from all walks of life go to great lengths for money. Victor's pursuer, Nelson (Victor Sosa), is apparently willing to kill just to pay for his infant's insulin. A dumb camera phone not only serves as a status symbol here, but also as street currency and collateral.
"7 Boxes." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles. Also on VOD.