Cannes 2023 Review: THE DELINQUENTS, Sensationally Entertaining Bank-Heist Dramedy

Daniel Elías and Esteban Bigliardi star as bank colleagues who rob their employer in Rodrigo Moreno's Argentinian comedy drama.

Contributing Writer; New Jersey, USA (@fuzzyyarns)
Cannes 2023 Review: THE DELINQUENTS, Sensationally Entertaining Bank-Heist Dramedy
The joy of storytelling is alive and well and thriving in Argentina.
They seem to understand better than most the primal thrill we feel when an imaginative yarn-spinner tells us tall tales to captivate us. We are children once again, unconcerned with meaning, just curious to know what unexpected thing will happen next.
Laura Citarella’s Trenque Lauquen from earlier in the year encapsulated these pleasures. We now have compatriot Rodrigo Moreno’s The Delinquents, premiering in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, providing us with comparable entertainment.
Morán (Daniel Elías) is co-treasurer at a Buenos Aires bank and has been thinking about robbing his employer for some time. And like the best stories, The Delinquents doesn’t make you wait for the heist with an agonizingly long set-up and prep. It does what it says on the tin within the first 15 minutes and then we are off to the races.
Morán’s colleague at the bank, Román (Esteban Bigliardi), works as a teller but has to leave early because he’s getting his medical collar taken off. Morán’s co-treasurer Isnardi is assigned to take Román’s spot at the teller leaving the coast clear for Morán to walk in alone into the treasury, seize the money he needs and then walk out.
His plan is a bit hare-brained but makes sense when you think about it. Morán isn’t looking to get rich and spend his money on luxuries and hookers. All he wants to do is retire early in his early 40s with retirement savings in his account that will last him the rest of his life. His cost-benefit analysis? To get an equivalent amount of retirement savings through employment, he will need to work for an additional 25 years.
But if he turns himself in for the bank robbery, he will only face six years in prison for a white-collar crime, reducible to 3.5 years for good behavior. His choice is thus 3.5 years or 25 years to retire; he chooses the former.
The only catch is that he needs someone to look over the cash while he is in prison. Enter Román. Morán contacts Román and reveals that he actually stole double the amount needed for retirement in order to facilitate two retirements: his and an accomplice’s, Román’s in this case if he can keep the money safe for him.
Román is left without any options, as Morán says if he refuses he will state in his confession that Román purposefully left early to facilitate the robbery and Román will end up in jail too. Román reluctantly accepts and Morán turns himself in, after a few days of roaming the countryside in his last few days as a free man.
From this simple premise, Moreno spins off any number of off-shoots and tangents, adding layers and digressions and subplots and characters as his tale acquires richness and depth and holds our fascination for an engrossing three hours. And if there is even a hint of self-seriousness, Moreno leavens The Delinquents with sustained gags and flashes of humor to keep things effervescent and never self-serious.
A continuous gag is Morán saying he has stopped smoking but continuing to chain smoke throughout. Or Román’s girlfriend's pupils repeatedly asking him for a drink of water. Or all the variations of Morán/Román we meet, including a Ramon, a Norma, and a Morna.
All this levity doesn’t mean we don't deal head-on with the consequences of the robbery too. Moreno takes pains in the early part of the picture to paint an amazing workplace comedy-like portrait of all of Morán/Román’s bank colleagues.
We get to know several of them as office archetypes. But several are demoted and/or fired when strident compliance officer Laura (the aforementioned Trenque Lauquen’s lead Laura Paredes) barges in to boss everyone around in the wake of the robbery. Román is having heart palpitations;  he will be found out any day. Meanwhile, we track the fortunes of Morán in prison and how he deals with prison gangs, something he didn’t necessarily account for as a white-collar prisoner.
These Argentinian picaresque movies are often constructed in parts - the four-hour Trenque Lauquen was divided into two parts and 12 chapters. The Delinquents is no different as it is constructed in two halves too and by the time the second half rolls around, we have an even deeper appreciation of its smart construction.
All of the bank plot is packed into the first half. That leaves the second half to go into an entirely unpredictable, unimaginable, and borderline surreal direction. Our third main character, Norma (Margarita Molfino), is introduced at this juncture; she is the woman that both of our male protagonists will fall in love with.
As amusingly absurd coincidences pile up, we are left wondering whether these incidents are real or imagined. They are dreamed up, of course, by the fertile mind of Rodrigo Moreno, who with tremendous confidence guides us through timeframe and chronology changes, melding of tones and genres, and wondrous, joyous flights of fancy.
The Delinquents is a sustained feat of editing as it moves us through a miniseries worth of content at a steady, arresting pace. The film is also buoyed by bright, clean, attractive images throughout and a bouncy, peppy, swingy soundtrack of jazz tunes.
The film wouldn’t be as entertaining as it is without the very specific charms of its two leading men, Daniel Elías and Esteban Bigliardi. The unlikely duo and partners-in-crime are a study in contrasts. Elías’s Morán is exuberant, schlubby, and mischievous while the surprisingly shredded Bigliardi is more coiled up, elegant, and internalized but equally compelling to watch onscreen. Bigliardi is especially fantastic at communicating the baffling and confounding moral morass his character finds himself in and his quiet courage as he navigates it in the best way he can.
The Delinquents is ultimately stirring in its theme of seizing life by the horns and making of it what you will.  It is populated with attractive, seductive characters who feel like real people; they have dreams, desires, appetites, and a rich inner life. And you will be plenty engrossed as you watch their adventures and misadventures unfold across this luxuriously imaginative tale.
The Delinquents premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and will be released in North America via Mubi.
Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
ArgentinaBrazilCannesChileDaniel ElíasEsteban BigliardiRodrigo MorenoThe Delinquents

Around the Internet