Like self-propelled pinballs, the characters in writer-director Alejo Moguillansky’s Castro fling themselves across streets, up stairways, and down sidewalks. It’s funny—the film moves at the pace of a Looney Tunes cartoon—and also revealing of character. These are all hustlers, taking shortcuts and jumping lines, working twice as hard to make sure they don’t have to find real work.
This is especially true of the title character (Edgardo Castro), who is on the run from a gang of misfit pursuers for reasons we never entirely understand (my favorite of his adversaries is Esteban Lamothe as Acuna, who tries to inconspicuously tail Castro while using crutches and wearing a bright yellow t-shirt). What we do know is that Castro would rather hop three different buses to go four blocks than work to earn bus fare. To get a job, he says, would mean “wasting your life away.”
Castro’s point is emphasized by the one job he does manage to land: carrying an unmarked package while being driven madly to a random intersection, where he gets out of the car and dashes into another, which frantically drives away. This plays into the movie’s madcap climax, where Castro’s pursuers confront him “on the job” and a Road Runner melee of scampering bodies and racing cars ensues, all changing places in a charade of activity that results in nothing of consequence.
At its best, I suppose you could consider Castro to be some sort of formalistic social satire—Tati on speed, and attuned to the particular economic realities of late 2000s Argentina. I was never that fully on its comic vibe, however, and found much of the absurdity to be a bit forced (Acuna sleeping face and head down on a stairway, for instance). Castro also concludes with an odd sequence that veers from touchingly melancholy to tragic. It’s as if the movie, which had been working so hard to make us laugh, suddenly decided none of this was very funny at all.