A scene from 'Our Lady of the Assassins'
Courtesy Photo
"OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS (La Virgen de los sicarios)"
*** stars 101 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, September 7, 2001
Directed by Barbet Schroeder

Starring German Jaramillo, Anderson Ballesteros, Juan David Restrepo, Manuel Busquets


You really need to be involved in this movie and let its sense of place surround you. Hard to do on the small screen, so isolate yourself from distractions and give the film your undivided attention.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 03.26.2002


Watch the trailer!

 LINKS for this film
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Official site 2
at Rotten Tomatoes
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Depressed expat writer returns to Columbia to find anarchy, 'Assassins' rule his homeland

By Rob Blackwelder

A somber, violent, poetic meditation on the day-to-day anarchy that rules modern Medellin, "Our Lady of the Assassins" is the story of an intellectual Colombian expatriate returning home for the first time since gang violence and the cocaine trade laid waste to the city of his youth.

A moneyed but world-weary writer who has come home heavy with thoughts of suicide, Fernando (German Jaramillo) mourns the Medellin that existed before Pablo Escobar and the cartels. But after meeting Alexis (Anderson Ballesteros), a handsome teenage gang member who becomes his plaything/lover, and seeing the city through the young man's eyes, Fernando quickly becomes resigned to the fact that life here is cheap.

Alexis, who never leaves Fernando's depressingly sparse penthouse without his 9mm Baretta, may be more opportunistic than he is gay. He knows this aging gentleman is his ticket off the streets. Yet through Alexis, Fernando's eyes are opened and his heart is hardened. Frozen in shock at witnessing a drive-by shooting and a carjacking murder in his first few days home, it isn't long before Fernando is hardly phased by Alexis casually shooting another kid in cold blood right in front of him.

Because a rival gang has put a price on his lover's head, Fernando soon acclimates to the fact that he could -- and frequently does -- find himself in the middle of a shootout at any moment. By the time his young lover has capped a cab driver for calling them "faggots" and two men on a commuter train for similar offenses, Fernando has grown almost as nonchalant about murder as Alexis. Every day more disenchanted with the world, he disapproves but simply finds it hard to care.

"Our Lady of the Assassins" feels so poignantly and pointedly personal that it's somewhat surprising to learn it wasn't helmed by a Colombian filmmaker. Although adapted from an autobiographical by native Fernando Vallejo, it is international director Barbet Schroeder -- whose pictures have run the gamut from French New Wave to Oscar bait like "Reversal of Fortune" to the genre-spawning roommate from hell thriller "Single White Female" -- behind the camera, bringing into sharp focus the brutality of Medellin through Fernando's abjectly philosophical eyes.

Schroeder probes the dichotomy of these two men and the two Columbias from which they come, finding shocking touches of depressing authenticity to illustrate his point -- like the abundance of adolescent addicts wandering the streets with bottles of glue held tightly to their faces.

Meanwhile actor Jaramillo plumbs Fernando's soul for every minute emotion from articulate fury at the fate of his beloved nation to stunned sympathy when he meets one of the gang members out to kill Alexis and comes to understand his motives.

In its last act "Our Lady" takes on a cyclical nature that is supposed to accentuate the fleeting, interchangeable nature of life in gang-crippled Medellin. But the message is undermined by the fact that after a burst of personal violence, you spend the last 20 minutes of the movie waiting for the other shoe to drop. The picture loses some punch in the process, leaving one to wonder if it might not have been more powerful by ending 15 minutes earlier.

But by this time a lasting impression has already been made by the film's profound, imposing potency.


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