Amores Perros (2000)
Amores Perros is a Mexican film by 21 Grams director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu that involves three interlocking stories of love, violence, loss, and dogs. Yes, dogs.
The first segment of three in the 150-minute movie involves a young man named Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) who puts his rottweiler Cofi into dog fights, in which Cofi literally kills all his competition, and makes some nice coin along the way, which he hopes will convince his troubled brother Ramiro's mistreated young wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche), pregnant with Ramiro's second child, to come away with him. The segment begins and ends with the climactic car crash that links the three stories.
Segment two focuses on up-and-coming model/actress Valeria (Goya Toledo) and her beau, Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero), a magazine publisher who has left his wife and two daughters to be with her. In the new apartment they share, Valeria's dog Richie accidentally ends up underneath the floorboards, and the couple are at a loss for ideas on how to get him out, especially since they can't even see him and don't know if he's scared, trapped, or lost under there. This, coupled with Valeria's deteriorating health and uncertainty about her professional future, allows complications to arise in the relationship.
In the final segment, a seemingly down-on-his-luck guerilla-turned-hitman (Emilio Echevarria) is hired to take out a yuppie's partner for reasons not apparently clear. The hitman has also recently rescued a dying dog and attempting to nurse it back to health, adding him to the already bountiful stable of pooches that follow him around as he pushes his cart around town. The hitman has unfinished business from his past that he is also dealing with - and an opportunity arises for him to set things right and carry out his own designs on the hit for which he has been commissioned.
It is near impossible not to get completely absorbed in this film. The characters are so well drawn out, and each given hints of ambiguity that it is so easy to relate to every one of them - because we can immediately recognize them as humans, not just people in movies. Innaritu's documentary style of filmmaking - nearly every shot done with a handheld camera - makes us feel as if we're spying on real life.
As far as the involvement of dogs: it's a stroke of genius. Pay attention to the scene near the end when two characters, each carrying a massive amount of enmity toward the other, are unleashed on one another. Besides the species, how is this different from a dog fight? Parallels are drawn throughout the film between dogs and humans; we can be at times loyal, scared, hurt, and vicious. Unlike most movies, Amores Perros does not seek easy answers to life's hardest questions.
November 11, 2004