Israel in Exile

This debut feature by Chicago actor, writer, and director Juan Ramirez is visceral, passionate, and relentlessly nonlinear—much like Latino Chicago Theater, the company he ran during the 1980s and early 90s. Based in Wicker Park, LCT mixed the urban grit of Nelson Algren with the surrealism of Octavio Paz and Federico Garcia Lorca and the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This story of a down-and-out boxer haunted by various apparitions is powered by the same mix of stark realism and otherworldliness. Unfortunately Ramirez overdoes the surrealistic element, turning a fairly straightforward story of a man's search for redemption into a jumble of archetypes, religious images, and half-baked arty notions (scars that magically heal, characters who appear and disappear in a flash, hallucinations within hallucinations). Cinematographer David Russell makes even the mundane streets of Pilsen look gorgeous, but after a while the long, moody shots of urban landscape begin to seem like padding. 90 min.

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