As the mid-level manager at a regional bank, Morán (Daniel Elias) is good at doing the math, recently running projections in “The Delinquents” not for any particular account he’s handling but for his own future. The amount of money isn’t in question – he aims to have $650,000 for his retirement, but he believes he could save himself a great deal of time and stress if he’d dip into the vault down the hallway from his office and stash away the proceeds until he gets out of prison. There are no flaws in his logic, even when it requires bringing in Román (Esteban Bigliardi), a co-worker he trusts to house some of the money during his sentence and know where the rest of it is in case of an emergency, when three-and-a-half years in a loose-fitting jumpsuit sound far more comfortable than another 20 in a suit and tie he abhors. However, it becomes a decision that lands both men in prison, or more accurately, exposes the bars already governing their experience in Rodrigo Moreno’s canny caper in which the stolen cash seems to be far less of a crime than all that’s robbed of a society when organizing itself around the pursuit of money.
Like other recent super-sized Argentine films such as “Trenque Lauquen” and “La Flor,” “The Delinquents” has a different idea of what a film can be than what the industry typically allows, divided into two hour-and-a-half-long parts that can easily be digested as one full meal. Rolling along at a leisurely and engrossing clip, it never feels overstuffed as Moreno observes how Morán and Román deal with the aftermath of the least confrontational heist in film history, maybe other than “Office Space.” After Morán happily turns himself in, the case itself is cut-and-dry for the police, and the bank doesn’t dare go public with what they know when current clientele might withdraw their money if they knew about the inside job, yet Román becomes racked with guilt once an internal investigation is launched, with a dogged outside consultant (Laura Paredes) putting everyone in the office under scrutiny to seek the whereabouts of the money and threatening to lay off those who seem even mildly suspect.
If Román wasn’t as tired of his job as Morán was, the increasingly inhospitable work environment gets on his nerves, making a visit to the mountains of Alpa Corral where his co-worker buried the lion’s share of the loot a welcome retreat. A place where times ceases to exist, it isn’t only the two men who are enchanted by the beauty of nature and a gentler rhythm of life as “The Delinquents” offers a respite for all in the glorious vistas of Cordoba where Román eventually finds a trio of strangers — sisters Moana (Cecilia Rainero) and Norma (Margarita Molfino), and their filmmaking friend Ramón (Javier Zoro Sutton) – to hang out with for a lazy weekend, nearly forgetting all about his life in the city. Although Morán’s life isn’t quite as easy as he imagined in prison when he needs to start paying a brute for protection, it’s uncomplicated and when Román finds the same level of inner peace once outside of Buenos Aires, Moreno is able to envision an entirely different value system than the one on which the world currently operates and laces the film with unexpected bits of wisdom throughout when those separated from the rat race can see it more clearly.
When “The Delinquents” enjoys a similar freedom in approaching the story as the two men have living it out, it’s hard to argue against the results, full of vitality and joy. A chameleonic score and sly, playful touches like having the characters’ names serve as anagrams of one another yield a film that’s anything but routine and while running out the clock may be a goal for Morán and Román, Moreno leaves one wanting more.
“The Delinquents” will screen at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19th at 9 am at Le Cineum Aurore, 3 pm at the Le Cineum IMAX and 3:15 pm at the Le Cineum Screen X.