The description of “Cadejo Blanco,” directed by Justin Lerner, reads like a thriller: After her sister disappears, a young Guatemalan woman infiltrates a gang to try to find her. But there are few thrills in the film, which moves slowly and with too much ease through the world of Guatemalan gangs. It’s beautifully shot and gives an authentic view of street life there, but the characters’ journeys are not sufficiently developed, and the resolutions feel unearned.
The film kicks off in Guatemala City with Sarita (Karen Martínez) being dragged out for a night of clubbing with her free-spirited sister, Bea (Pamela Martínez), who had the ulterior motive of meeting up with her boyfriend Andrés (Rudy Rodríguez). Sarita leaves the bar early, and the next morning, discovers that Bea never came home. Sarita suspects Andrés, who is a gang member, so she travels to the coastal town of Puerto Barrios to befriend him and find Bea.
But Sarita’s mission to find her sister seems quickly forgotten, as the film’s focus shifts to the day-to-day interactions of the gang members. Perhaps this is intentional. The director cast predominantly nonprofessional actors in the film, among them real-life gang members from Puerto Barrios. Many of the cast members had a hand in reworking the script to better reflect their lives and daily vernacular. But this authenticity was not enough to make up for the shoddy storytelling. Had the film leaned more intentionally into the interior lives of its characters rather than positioning itself as a thriller, it may have been a more satisfying watch.
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes. In theaters.