The Three Marias Movie Review

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Brazilian director Aluisio Abranches starts his drama The Three Marias with a series of brutal and senseless deaths. Two brothers are struck down, one burned alive by a gasoline-splashing madman while the other has his eyes plucked out. That's nothing. Back at the homestead, their father is hung from the ceiling by his own intestines. Family fare, this is not.

The dead relatives, we learn, are executed by the sons of Firmino Santos Guerra (Carlos Vereza). Thirty years ago, Guerra was left near the altar by Filomena Capadócio (Marieta Severo), who fell in love with another man and had several children by him. Guerra harbored his jealous rage for decades, finally deciding years later that it was time to eliminate the man who stole his one true love.

What Guerra doesn't know is that Capadócio isn't about to let bygones be bygones. Filled with grief, she hatches a plan to retaliate, and recruits her three remaining daughters - all named Maria - to unleash the fury of three hired killers on the men of Guerra's home. Payback. Ain't it a bitch?

The set-up has Quentin Tarantino's name written all over it. In fact, had Marias been scripted by Mr. Pulp Fiction, the remainder of the film would have been soaked with blood and riddled with bullets, all set to a grooving '70s soundtrack. Maybe it speaks to our society that we expect such violent retribution. But Abranches only hints at delivering a gripping eye-for-an-eye standoff throughout the entire movie and never fulfills the promise.

In fact, Marias is all about build-up, with very little payoff. A jailbreak in the second act comes to mind. It's staged by the youngest Maria, so she can release a prisoner known only as "The Devil's Horse." The escape plays a significant part in Capadócio's revenge scheme, though it isn't shown. Budget concerns, perhaps?

Even the men sought by the three Marias can't live up to their hype. The script makes them out to be comic book-quality killers, and we expect their presence to ratchet up the action. Instead, each brings a bevy of quirks to the already mysterious plot and only clouds the vengeance plotline further. One, Zé das Cobras (Enrique Díaz), refuses to speak directly to the eldest Maria because he's read of Adam and Eve and distrusts women. They conduct all of their conversations through a middleman.

Brazil's natural beauty gives Abranches plenty of breathtaking settings, and his visual approach keeps us off-balance for large parts of this adventure. But Marias steers clear of answering obvious questions, and leaves us in a lurch. How did the Capadócio matriarch know about these three hired killers? Why do these vicious men agree to complete murderous acts of revenge for the sisters? And what makes the Marias believe that the killing is going to stop with them? The retribution driving the three Marias forward deserves an emotional conclusion, but all three of their storylines simply fizzle to a stop.

Aka As Três Marias.

Cast & Crew

Starring : , , Enrique Díaz, Taveira Júnior, Júlia Lemmertz, Fábio Limma, Luíza Mariani, Maria Luisa Mendonça, , ,

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The Three Marias Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 2003

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