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Case Number 04029: Small Claims Court

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Without A Trace (Sin Dejar Huella)

Fox // 2000 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // March 6th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

Winner of the 2001 Sundance Film Festival's Latin American Cinema Award as well as two Ariels (the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar)!

The Case

Aurelia (Tiare Scanda) is a young single woman with two children. She has a boyfriend, who would be worthless if it wasn't for the money his drug dealing brings in. Marilu (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) is a con woman who has a comfortable arrangement with local police: she dupes tourists out of money through the sales of dubious art and the law looks the other way. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose, causing Aurelia to "exit, stage left" (sorry, Snagglepuss). During her trip, she runs into Marilu, who is also running from oncoming trouble. The two women decide to escape to Cancun together and start a new life.

When I requested Without a Trace, I assumed it was the terrific 1983 suspense picture starring Kate Nelligan and Judd Hirsch. That film, about one woman's attempt to find her kidnapped son, had been announced for DVD release and I anticipated finally seeing it in widescreen. As it turned out, Fox acquired an unseen Mexican film that happens to have the same title. The disappointment faded as I pondered that Mexican cinema has been revitalized with films such as Y Tu Mama Tambien and Amores Perros. Could I be on the verge of discovering a third masterpiece in a row? The suspense was killing me as I popped the disc in the player and settled down.

The disappointment returned. After a terrific opening twenty minutes, with unpredictable twists and developments, I was saddened that I would not be discovering another classic. Instead, what started out as a sharp, suspenseful black comedy then bogged down into just another road movie, no better or worse than has been seen before. Writer/director Maria Novaro cooked up a great premise and produced a tightly written and acted first act. It's a shame that it then turned to more predictable waters. It doesn't work as comedy, it doesn't work as suspense, and the ending is a complete cheat. I cannot imagine any audience accepting this muddle of a conclusion.

Fox has done a fine job bringing lesser-known Hispanic films to DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer looks fabulous, with no problems other than some minor edge enhancement and a scene or two that has washed out colors. It's fine work, especially taking the low budget into account.

Audio is offered only in Spanish, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. This is the problem area here. The dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand, which will be a problem for those who prefer to watch the film without any subtitles. The rest I assume will have the subtitles to aid them. Despite that considerable plus, the mix is very muddy, with dialogue and music often blurring together into an incomprehensible mess.

Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer for a sister release Lucia Lucia and a promotional spot for the Cinema Latino DVD series.

I cannot recommend Without A Trace. It is far too plain and ordinary to satisfy anyone. There are far better Mexican films to see instead, ones that are unafraid to push the envelope and challenge the viewer to think and feel. There is a good reason this was never given theatrical release.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Classic
• Drama
• Foreign

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Trailers


• IMDb

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