Ratas, ratones, rateros (1999) Poster

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beneath the bottom in the social scale there still live people. This is a great film about them.
pedrito2 November 1999
In most of Latin America, beneath the bottom in the social scale there still live people. And a lot of those people are children. Kids without parents. With no school. Bereft of the joys of childhood. Deprived of any future. Children for whom abuse, rape and even violent death are everyday occurrences.

This view ‘from underneath the bottom' is a recurrent theme in recent Latin American cinema or in movies based on Latin American novels.

A few examples: `Capitaes da Areia' (Engl. title ‘The sandpit generals'), directed by Hall Bartlett in 1972, written by Brazilian Jorge Amado, was based on true stories about streetwise rascals in Salvador de Bahía. Another Brazilian film, `Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco' (Hector Babenco, 1981) revived the same theme using real abandoned kids as players, and when Fernando Ramos Da Silva, the leading actor, was actually killed in those same streets, Paulo Halm and Jose Joffily continued the saga with the sequel `Quem matou Pixote?' (‘Who killed Pixote?', 1996).

In Argentina, the recent `Pizza, birra y faso' (Adrián Caetano & Bruno Stagnaro, 1997) reformulated the subject for present day Buenos Aires, and there are two great and dreadful Colombian films (both by Víctor Gaviria): `Rodrigo D.' (Engl. title ‘Rodrigo D: no future', 1990) and `La vendedora de rosas' (1998), which painted the same motif in still darker colors.

Now a new member has added to this family of true-to-life films, about the menacing insurgence of the desperado human products that arouse from the explosive mixture of extreme poverty, social segregation and a complete lack of hope.

The 1999 Ecuadorian film `Ratas, ratones, rateros' (Engl. title ‘Rodents') has just won the Trieste Latin Film Festival (both the Grand Prix and the Opera Prima awards), after being acclaimed at the ‘Mostra' in Venice and at the Toronto Film Festival. Its author (writer/director) is Sebastián Cordero, born in Ecuador (1972) and a graduate of USC. The film was completed on a very low budget (just below the 200,000 dollars line). 35 mm. 109 min.

‘Rodents' shares with its predecessors a common and implicit wrath against social injustice, a widespread compassion for its victims, a taste for street language and vulgarisms, a tragical and hopeless film ending and a certain apocalyptic comprehension of the future.

No one can blame Cordero because of this point of view. It's quite understandable. Ecuador, a small South American country, is immersed in a deep economical crisis, has changed four governments in the last five years and is currently ranking among the most corrupt countries in the world. Therefore, there is little room for hope.

Yet Cordero stands on that last piece of hope. While Gaviria's appalling films should be considered almost docudramas, because of their extensive use of wild and improvised footage and sound, ‘Rodents' is entirely fiction. This fact allows Cordero to develop the film's subject without any trace of pamphleteer's or social reformer's speech, while giving his theme a treatment entirely free of any effete or wimpy false sympathy for the street hardened characters he depicts.

Based on reality, but reconstructed and rearranged in the mind of an artist, the film becomes a forceful condemnation of the situation it enlightens and must be considered a powerful weapon in the struggle for a better future in his country.

A standing ovation for Sebastián Cordero, a young master.
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If you want to know what life in a big Latin-American city today is all about, don't miss this movie!
fabreu12 March 2002
I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America,city of sunshine, gorgeous beaches, green mountains, beautiful girls, the Corcovado, the Sugar Loaf, samba, bossa nova and soccer. I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America, city of widespread violence, corruption, poverty, slums (favelas), endemic deseases, abandoned children, drug dealing, gun traffic, underemployment, uneffective state policies on public health, security or education.

"Rodents" takes place in Quito, Ecuador. It could easily take place in Rio, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Bogotá, Caracas, Lima. It could never take place in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Stockholm, London, Calcutta, Munich, Zurich, Melbourne, Shanghai. Viewers from any big city in the world will surely relate to the shocking topics masterfully shown on the screen concerning violence, abandoned kids, drugs, messed up family relations, the poverty-ridden underworld. But what only Latin-Americans will painfully recognize as very much their own malaises are the catholic guilt, the thriving macho way of life, the contempt for women, the black humor under tragic circumstances, the poor kids' absence of future, the banality of life and death, the old well-marked social and economical hierarchy that has been skillfully preserved all through the "transition" from autocratic to "democratic" régimes.

Well, that's the result of 500 years of political and cultural annihilation: at first, the extermination of nearly all the native original population; yesterday, the fascist and corrupt dictatorships preserving time after time the same rich families and the same poor millions; today, the gradual extinction of whatever forms of art and culture we tried to produce as we are permanently shoved up with media-induced "first world values".

"Rodents" belongs to a great line of Latin-American masterpieces about social and moral abandon experienced by youth in big cities. To name but a few: Buñuel's "Los Olvidados" (Mexico, 1950); Nelson Pereira dos Santos' "Rio 40 Graus" (Brazil, 1955); Hector Babenco's "Pixote-A Lei do Mais Fraco" (Brazil, 1981); and even in Barbet Schroeder's irregular but powerful "La Virgen de los Sicarios/Our Lady of Assassins" (Colombia, 2000). Even in movies that are near in spirit and form - like Mathieu Kassovitz "La Haine" (France, 1995) and Larry Clark's "Kids" (US, 1995), we Latin-Americans can detect a world of difference. Or rather, "two" worlds of difference: the difference between living in the "first" and in the "third" world.

"Rodents" is an amazing first feature film, with knockout performances by the two leads, well-written, and most important of all: it manages to deliver a powerful political and social statement while making us care a lot about those characters up there. It also allows viewers from anywhere in the world to have a clue of what it means to be a Latin-American living in a big Latin-American city today. Bravo!
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Unsurpassed realism shocks in this must see Latin film
GMeleJr29 April 2000
I had heard a lot about this ground breaking, acclaimed film about street kids in Ecuador at Film Festivals in Europe and South America in 1999. But, I just got to see it today at the Miami Hispanic Film Festival. Take it from one who's experienced that scene in the crime ridden, cocaine-permeated large capitals of South America...This film- RODENTS, in English is the next most realistic (and much less life-threatening) thing to being in that scene. It's not just the characters themselves, their neighborhoods, their language, their crimes which are so meticulously recreated. The alluring yet potentially lethal high that cocaine in all its forms, especially in smoked form in this film, has never been as faithfully reproduced. "Rodents" main, ex-convict character, and the special effects surrounding his base smoking scenes, are mind boggling. The movie starts with such a scene. After that, it's as if one totally understands what draws the character to continue committing such incredible low, almost sub-human crimes. The high is so intoxicating, even when juxtaposed with graphic sex, that for once, and perhaps the only time in cinema, the poison that particular drug contains is made completely clear. What ensues in "Rodents" in the never-ending quest for that "high" constitutes some of the most realistic portrayals of youth crime, and social class clashes in Latin America film. However, seeing all that, with the almost too real-to-be-true cinematic insight of the addiction which causes these social tragedies, is a unique experience. Not to be missed.
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A privilege to watch...
kasha-520 December 1999
Ecuador has an almost nonexistent film industry. The country pushes out one feature every four or five years. I was intrigued by this fact, but also had low expectations as I bought my ticket at this year's Toronto film fest. But within the first few minutes I was already reeled into the lives of these characters. I can't think of one film that takes place in downtown Quito, and the place only appears on television (in Canada) when there's a major news story, a disaster, etc. But Rodents takes place in Quito's sprawling suburbs, a place most of us don't know exists. For this reason alone Rodents is worth the price of admission. On top of this it's a solid film, with fine acting, slick direction and a plot that keeps it's pace. It even delivers action and suspense -- no small feat considering the film's minimal resources. Felicidades, Quitenos!
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links the rich to the wretched in a sad portrait of Latin America
bobbie-1628 May 2002
"Rodents" is a bit different from other movies about Latin American criminals and lowlife in that it shows the interconnections among classes. The sad protagonist, Salvador, is an aimless kid at the bottom edge of the lower middle class; one of his cousins is in the greedy, selfish, stupid bourgeoisie, and his other cousin, the sociopath Angel, is in the "underclass." Like Mario Vargas Llosa's stunning novel, Conversation in the Cathedral, "Rodents" is saying that these classes don't exist separately from each other--the degradation of life in many large cities throughout the world is a product of class interactions. The viewer feels sorry for Salvador, who like the middle class as a whole, is trapped between brutal street criminals and the disgusting rich, caught in a spiral of meaningless violence that he has absolutely no control over. Incidentally, I agree with Ecuadorian reviewers who say this movie is not representative of life in Quito; it's true enough that Ecuadorians have generally remained civil and non-violent, despite the horrible things that corrupt politicians and the IMF (and others)have done to their economy. However, the movie packs a punch and has a lot to say about life in many places beyond Ecuador. A must-see.
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Valiant Effort!
baselli3 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Having lived in Ecuador I can truly relate to the characters and social commentary made in this film. It is a story well told of individuals that are a part of Ecuadorian society, however small that part may be. To the person that felt insulted, I would like to say that there is no need to be ashamed of how the country is portrayed, on the contrary, as an Ecuadorian, you should be proud that film making in your country is becoming more than an exotic location for films such as Proof of Life and Maria Full of Grace. With the limited resources available to this production, the result displays good film-making skills and tells a story that unfortunately can be found in most Latin American cities. I look forward to seeing Sebastian Cordero's latest effort, Cronicas, starring John Leguizamo, amongst others.
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The ID card of ecuadorian cinema
pietrospeggio29 May 2004
Sebastian Cordero is one of the great filmmakers of Latin America. Thanks to him, this is the first movie with several international awards such as: Best First Movie and Best Movie in The Latin America Cinema of Trieste, Italy (1999). Best Actor (Carlos Valencia) and Best First Movie in The Spanish American Film Festival of Huelva, Spain (1999). Best Editing Award in The Havana Festival (1999). A honorable mention in the Bogota Film Festival (2000). Thanks to Cordero, Ecuador is in the international spotlight. CRONICAS (Chronicles), his latest feature starring John Leguizamo, was showed at Cannes in the "Un certain regard" section with excellent reviews. Long live Ecuador! Viva el Ecuador!
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outstanding, excellent piece of gritty street drama
cheese_cake30 August 2004
rateros, is about a street level hoodlum in modern day quito, Ecuador. this moving cannonball of destruction, intersects with various people's lives, leaving mayhem and chaos in his aftermath. the guy seems to have gone on the wrong path due to personal misfortunes, like the death of his mother and is progressively getting worse. he is getting addicted to smoking cocoa, which is filmed with a gangsta cool, which is hard to beat, and almost makes me want to do the same things too. i can identify with this movie a lot, since i too was once on the wrong path like this. lying and using people came easily to me and it wasn't that i wanted to hurt them or do bad things, it was just the way the day spelled out for me.

rateros, is a lot like train spotting, the British movie about junkies. while it stays true to the emotions and reality of such a lifestyle, one could say that the protagonist is unusually lucky. such a lifestyle of drugs, using people and in this movies case, eventually progressing to killing people, can only be affected for the short term. people who live this way do not live long or live long outside of prisons.

the movie supports an ensemble cast of characters, who play their parts excellently, but angel is the centerpiece. the actor who plays him (Carlos Valencia) gave a virtual tour de force performance. he was very very good and believable down to the blackened nicotine stained lips and whinny insinuating way of street talking. the cinematography is also very good, giving a very good feel of the culture of the burgeoning metropolis, that is quito.

overall the movie is very good and another milestone in the tons of very good cinema coming out of south America, and one of the first which has put Ecuador on the map for me. i highly recommend that you watch it.
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A great movie about the crude reality
daria8421 March 2003
I saw this movie twice at the movies in Ecuador, and it was a lot better than I expected. I mostly wanted to see it because I wanted to support the film industry of my country and see the landscapes, honestly, I didn't think it was going to be any good; but I was surprised to see how great this movie turned out.

It is about a young man, Salvador, who gets kicked out of the military academy, and consequently gets involved in the dirty business of his cousin Angel, and has to go through a lot of hard situations, including his relationship with his father.

This movie shows a lot of the many faces of Ecuador and of many countries of the third-world, shows the underworld; dirty business, murders, etc; also shows the "middle-high society" and most of all, the poverty of a lot of people.

The plot is very good, it has so many twists that keeps you entertained all the time and wondering what is going to happen next; also the performances are great, especially Carlos Valencia's, who plays Angel, he is totally believable in everything he says and does. All the supporting cast did a great job as well.

Bottom line: if you are into this kind of films, and you understand at least a little of spanish (I'm sure there are subtitles in english, but the jokes are way too good to miss them, and they are not well translated) this is definitely a must-see. ***** out of *****,
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Tough Slice of Ecuadorian Life
gpadillo29 November 2004
A difficult film to watch, Rateros is a rewarding, harrowing, emotional roller coaster of a movie. Marcos Bustos is Salvador, a poor teenager in-and-out of minor trouble at military school, but overall likable. Enter his inappropriately named cousin, Angel, a man who can fall in a bed of roses and come out smelling like crap. Angel is a junky and immediately proceeds to ruin the lives of Salvador and anyone else he comes into contact with.

As Angel Carlos Valencia gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance that is so believable and anger-inducing I nearly wanted to reach into my television and strangle him myself. This is a slice of life from an impoverished and almost hopeless world. Though extremely poor, Salvador is straddling a place between two worlds as he teeters dangerously towards the wrong one. Although it's evident early on he would like to rid himself, tough guy Angel's cries to Salvador for help work in a revolting passive aggressive way that threatens violence at all times.

Inspiration and hope come from Salvador's understanding girlfriend, Mayra and another cousin the wealthy, sympathetic and beautifully bored, Carolina.

Silent witness to all and symbol of the film's grim realities sits the boy's shared grandma, wheelchair bound and comatose, more dead than alive and helpless to do more than just sit there.

A powerful, sad and thought provoking tale.
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life of two cousins which see each other in Quito and begin a crime, drug and sex life.
andreslop285 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
this movie was filmed in Quito and Guayaquil Ecuador, is the first one of Cordero, one of the best directors of south America, i live in Quito and the story tells just how is crime in third world countries. There are beginners actors that give the movie a real taste anything seems to see fake. The movie has a very good soundtrack also with rock and hip hop Ecuadorian bands that fill the movie in a perfect way. Cordero has also made a movie called Cronicas in Babahoyo, Ecuador, it has Spanish and Mexican actors. He is now working with Richard Gear in a movie that will tell the story of Abraham Lincon, it has been a very good year for him and this last project may give him a lot more fame.

I recommend this movie to everyone it is strong and well made watch it!
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Bastante bien, loco!
Exiled_Archangel26 February 2003
Well.. Fantastic! I, myself, am not into criminal films or plots based on how runaways manage to run away. BUT this one was outstanding. It doesn't try to be American, the main characters are well put, and the acting is flawless. Nothing much to write about it really.. Just go and watch it, and shoot me if you're disappointed :) I give this movie 10/10.
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Excellent example of real life for the poor in a third world country.
mari_cris_p24 July 2002
This movie is based on the life of poor people who live in a third world country. As a native of the country where it takes place, I can tell that this movie totally represents exactly what goes on a daily bases in the city streets and homes of those who do not have a real opportunity in life. It makes us think and feel the problems that humans without any economical resources can face at any given time.

This movie brings the Ecuadorian movie making at a great level. It was well done. I applaud the director and those who have taken the initiative in the realization of this movie.
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A great movie too close to reality
daflauta31 March 2002
You (the spectator) pass unnoticed 100% of the time. Yet it is like being there, the characters conquering your sympathy or not. I live in Brazil, and can testify for the realistic aspect of the story. The plot is quite feasible in terms of a reality which the rest of the world wouldn't think possible. Third world high quality cinema, that's it - to produce a work of art with a very low budget.
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That´s Ecuador as I know it...
1jaybee212 May 2001
...the heavy-gold-mirror colonial style of the house interiors, the super formal "15-years-partys", the way the youth acts in their community, the way the people talk making cool jokes, when they offer you a hard drink that´s supposedly "only cola", the warm-heartedness of even the bad guys - all that and more is super authentic for Ecuador!

  • The actors act so naturally, you forget it´s a movie and not a private recording...

  • The storyline however, tells us two things:

1. Youth basically acts the same all over the world

2. but youth is forced to adapt to its environment - that makes all the difference...
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An INSULT to both ecuadorians and good movie making
EdwardVI2 May 2000
Being from Ecuador I find this film an insult to my country's people. I feel outraged at how Rodents portrays Ecuadorians in an unrealistic, shallow way. The characters are awfully underdeveloped, they have no history, no personality, they are just stereotypes, dummies with no morals or spirit, each and every one of them exists only to give birth to a new incoherent plot element.

For instance, when the writer was in need of an epilepsy attack he created an empty young man from Quito's poorest corners. No compassion for him, no real drama in him, the writer uses the kid only to contrast with his favorite characters. There are thousands of deep dramas in the life of a 'serrano' young person who strives amongst poverty and family disapproval, none of them is richly portrayed here. Oh, but there is epilepsy!

The film looses itself in too many plot lines, all of them confusing and incoherent, it has dozens of characters, and no focus in any of them. The result is simply unreal.

Another example of the shallowness of the script is the protagonist (if there is any), the robber from Guayaquil. He carries all the wrong attitudes that can exist within a desperate person, but then again, we don't see desperation, lack of alternatives or suffering, not to the extent that can justify killing or abandoning friends.

The entire plot is non-existent, just ask yourself after seeing this movie, what was the storyline? where was the climax? did any drama develop throughout the movie? I don't mean general ideas, like "this is a description of the drama within the different social classes of Ecuador". A compelling movie is one that tells us a concrete story to exemplify it's point, Rodents is a spaghetti of situations which occur in too short a span of time to be believable.

If you wish you can disregard all my film criticism, may be I am wrong and the film is pure art. But there's only one point that I ask you to consider: Please don't judge us by this movie, Ecuador is not a rat-hole, the vast majority of our poor people literally starve to death or illness, yet very few of them even think about robbing or killing. As I write this, my country is living one of it's most difficult moments in it's entire history; 'dolarización' seems to come as the last blow to an already dying economy, it seems to me that the least we can do is not to lie about our people, and less with an awful, vapid movie.
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A really good film for Ecuadorian standards
viedmaricky15 June 2005
I'm Ecuadorian, but I "only" saw the film two or three times. I really think it's a good film for Ecuadorian standards, Carlos Valencia really makes a good character of a coastal (Coast region of Ecuador) thieve. He's the spirit of this film.

You can really see how low class young people live both in Quito and Guayaquil, and of course the "viveza criolla" which is that Latinos, especially, but not all "costeños" are so fast thinking for getting easy money, and they do it in an extremely "funny" way.

I also want to greet the director, and of course my cousin Cristina Davila.
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Third world quality in a third world film
=G=8 August 2003
"Ratas, Ratones, Rateros" tells of a street punk who returns to his roots only to creates problems which reverberate throughout his family. A mediocre flick at best with poor production value and a story which is less than engaging and goes no where, "RRR" is difficult to recommend for other than those few foreign film freaks who salivate over anything with a subtitle. You don't get Cadillacs out of a Volkswagon factory so be prepared for a very poor quality film before getting involved with this apparently earnest effort out of Ecuador. (C-)
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Is a question of values!
miguelangel-234 April 2002
I've seen this movie when I was in Ecuador. This is an interesting try, It's the first time I've not been totally disappointed about an Ecuadorian film, just let's remember the awful "Train to heaven" even though the Oscar winner James Coburn was playing on it, but was a naive and dumb movie anyway. This time Sebastian Cordero made a valiant film about bad habits. People who live in Ecuador can understand me. Was interesting, but unfortunely I don't recall any moral values or of any other kind, to comment about it. I think that this movie is a good try, but has a complete lack of trascendence or a message for the people from a Country who needs more moral examples, not the opposite. I gave it a 4.
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