Review: Flashes of happiness amid grim necessities in ‘Manos Sucias’

The blighted world of Afro-Colombian villagers in the violence-riven port of Buenaventura is the backdrop for Josef Kubota Wladyka’s crime drama “Manos Sucias,” produced by Spike Lee.

For naive, aspiring young rapper and new dad Delio (Cristian Advincula), being asked by traffickers to transport a cocaine-filled torpedo on a boat along the Colombian coastline is an exciting opportunity. Accompanying him is his stern-faced older brother Jacobo (Jarlin Martinez), who sees the dangerous job as a grim necessity, the last chance to escape his tragedy-wracked, impoverished fisherman’s life.

Generational friction between the two — over life ambitions, music tastes and soccer greats — gets put aside, though, when the mission goes bad. Though the plot turns aren’t necessarily surprising and characterizations a bit facile, Wladyka manages tense moments, particularly a chase on motorized rail cars.

More effective is the film’s naturalistic mood, its portrait of an environment dominated by a wretched business, one that scars lives and upends hopes and dreams. When a flash of peril subsides, Delio and Jacobo find moments of humor and song to share. But as “Manos Sucias” makes clear, a life in this trade can find a way to end those mighty quick.



“Manos Sucias”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles.


Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.