The rigorous formal techniques that mark the work of directors Carlos Reygadas and Amat Escalante provide a foundation for social outrage in A Monster With a Thousand Heads. Shot almost entirely in static set ups and long takes, Rodrigo Plá's thriller dissects Mexico's health care failures by pinpointing the small ethical compromises that have fortified such a deep level of bureaucratic rot. It's lean and mean in the most necessary of ways.
Sonia's (Jana Raluy) ill husband doesn't have much time left. As a last ditch effort, she lobbies her insurance company to pay for an experimental treatment only to be met with delays and excuses, then outright disrespect. The corruption of human services has already taken a toll on her family when the film begins. But soon after being dodged by her primary care physician in an act of blatant cowardice, she's driven to extreme action. Desperation and stress lead her to believe that all you need for social change is a girl and a gun.
The narrative metastasizes quickly, following Sonia and her teenage son as they kidnap a top administrator with the intention of forcing him to sign off on the treatment. Nothing goes accordingly to plan. One level of red tape leads to another. Blood is spilled. Even after creating a heightened and threatening space, Sonia is met with more excuses, patriarchal arrogance and manipulation.
Plá favors the perspective of onlookers (who will later become key witnesses) as they watch the events unfold. This gives the devolving real-time situations an added sense of confusion and volatility.
A Monster With a Thousand Heads, which opens on Friday, June 17, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park, is a swift cinematic plea for transparency and dignity. But the great equalizer isn't violence; it's the human endurance to carry on despite being surrounded by injustice.
A Monster With a Thousand Heads: Faced with her husband’s worsening illness and an uncooperative insurance company, a Mexican woman kidnaps a top administrator to incite change. Screens through Thursday, June 23, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Art Bastard: This documentary follows the life and career of New York artist Robert Cenedella. Opens Friday, June 17, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
Central Intelligence: A bullied student (Dwayne Johnson) sheds his baby fat and becomes a secret agent, then gets into some dangerous trouble with an old pal (Kevin Hart) at their high school reunion.
De Palma: Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s documentary allows the director Brian De Palma (Carlito’s Way) to survey his entire film career with verve, honesty and wit.
Finding Dory: Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres reprise their underwater roles as fish in distress in Pixar’s sequel.
Genius: A biopic that chronicles the life of editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth), who oversaw the works of Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Puerto Ricans in Paris: Hilarity ensues when two New York City cops travel to Paris to track down a missing handbag. Screens through Thursday, June 23, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One Time Only
Heathers: In this classic dark comedy about popularity, a teenage girl (Wynona Ryder) teams up with a sociopath to kill the cool kids. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: J.J. Abrams’ long-awaited Episode VII introduces a new generation of heroes while paying homage to the iconic characters from past films. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday – Sunday, June 16-19, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) gets mixed up with some Nazis in this adventure masterpiece from Steven Spielberg. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Beverly Hills Cop: Eddie Murphy stars as a wise-talking Detroit cop who travels to posh Beverly Hills in search of a killer. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
The Fast and the Furious: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker star as competing car enthusiasts in the film that launched endless sequels of auto mayhem. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Step Into Liquid: This classic documentary by Dana Brown showcases some of the Holy Grail spots for surfing and the people that defy gravity to ride the waves. Screens June 22 at The Pearl Hotel.