A tough little movie set in the waters and coastal jungles of Colombia, "Manos Sucias" dashes naive hope with cold, brutal reality.

As a truck pulls up to a remote drug supply outpost, hoods are pulled off two men sitting next to one another. Each blinks in astonishment as they turn out to be long-estranged brothers who've individually signed on to pilot a cocaine run up the Colombian coast.

The elder brother, Jacobo (Jarlin Martinez), is experienced at this, so he's wise enough to be wary and tight-lipped. Nineteen-year-old Delio (Cristian Advincula), though, is excited at the prospect of good-paying, easy work. A dreamer who wants to be a rapper, he has a girlfriend and baby son at home and he sees drug running as a golden opportunity for career advancement.

Jacobo knows better. He's been saving money and is hoping this last job will give him enough to move to Bogota, assumedly beyond the controls of the paramilitary drug lords who rule their hometown of Buenaventura.

The title means "dirty hands" in Spanish, and director Josef Kubota Wladyka makes sure both men need serious cleansing by the film's end. Working with both the broad openness of the sea, as well as the very specific tics and culture of the coastland, he offers up an environment that can turn from placid to hellish in a matter of moments.

The plan is to pull a submerged tank filled with 100 kilos of cocaine up the coast, delivering it at a predetermined GPS location. But violence erupts after a night spent on a beach, and soon the brothers are running from authorities while tracking down a thief. One thing's for sure — if they don't deliver the coke, they're dead.

Wladyka lets the brothers rebuild their bond while idling at sea, then he has circumstance and danger run them through the wringer. It's a mean process given urgency and palpable tension by the casually violent and perpetually dangerous environment. By the end it's clear: Some dirt just won't wash off.

'Manos Sucias'


Not rated

Running time: 84 minutes

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