David Jenkins


The Delinquents – first-look review

This deadpan philosophical crime caper from Argentina's Rodrigo Moreno is a meandering and hilarious delight from end to end.

Newsflash: it turns out that the absolute worst bank in the world is situated in Buenos Aires. Security is so lax and the manager so chill that it would become very easy for rank-and-file staff members to develop notions of ripping off their slipshod employer.

And that’s exactly what the disconsolate, seriously-minded Moran (Daniel Elías) choses to do, one day just stuffing a duffel bag with wads of notes and waltzing out of the front door. He’s fed up with his punchclock existence and has calculated that if he steals 600k pesos, that would be equivalent to his salary for 20 years.

Taking the hit of three-and-half years behind bars seems more than worth it (16-and-a-half years of freedom!), and so he ropes in a hapless accomplice to look after the loot and manage things from the outside. Sadly, the masterplan turns to shit much more swiftly than expected, yet director Rodrigo Moreno takes us on a pitch-shifting odyssey where a dark Dostoyevskyian tale of crushing guilt and moral turpitude transforms into something hopeful and strangely ebullient.

On the tail of countryman Laura Citarella’s similarly calibrated diptych, Trenque Lauquen, it seems as if Argentina is having something of a moment when it comes to free-form, surreptitiously meandering mega features that employ duration as a way to chart profound human shifts over time. Indeed, The Delinquents is similarly novelistic in its scope, with the intertwining fortunes of Moran and his gawky bagman Román (Esteban Bigliardi) suggesting that our destinies are unwritten and, even at our lowest ebb, there’s still all to play for.

At one point in the film, Román takes his girlfriend on a date the cinema to see Robert Bresson’s L’Argent, which is a good example of the film’s mischievous sense of humour, but also something of a red herring, as Moreno most certainly doesn’t share the French maestro’s relentlessly dismal vision of modern society as merely prisons within prisons within prisons.

One thing to add is that this is a hilarious funny film, yet the humour doesn’t ever come from jokes or contrived set-ups. It’s more a sense of looming realisation that the Moran and Román’s caper – explained and justified over a single pint in a pub – is even more flawed that we ever might have imagined.

Published 18 May 2023

Tags: Argentinian cinema Robert Bresson

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