In late 1970s Chile during Augusto Pinochet’s tyrannical dictatorship, middle-aged, low-life thug Raul (Castro) dreams only of winning a TV look-alike contest. His hero is Tony Manero, the character immortalized by John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” With his girlfriend Cony (Noguera) and her daughter Pauli (Lattus), he rehearses the famous, white suit dance number for a performance in a local cantina. But Raul has another hobby as well: killing anyone who stands in his way.
Larrain’s tale of horrific obsession focuses on one soulless psychopath who operates with seeming impunity during the murderous, oppressive days of the Pinochet regime. Thus insanity on a smaller scale is set against a broader, more pervasive madness. Castro gives a tour-de-force performance as a thoroughly repellent but still fascinating character. Shot on Super 16mm and blown up to 35mm, the film has the grain and grit of 70’s cinema. With hand-held camerawork taking us inside Raul’s fractured mind, “Tony Manero” is one film you’ll find hard to forget.