The lives of two Venezuelan families become entwined after a child's game leads to a shocking discovery. The families couldn't be more different, hailing from opposite sides of the economic spectrum in Caracas. In a city rife with corruption, human life is of little value. The film asks the uncomfortable question: How far might you go to protect those you love? 

Clever thriller premise mostly holds up.

SYDNEY LATIN FILM FESTIVAL: A thriller with a social conscience, Venezuelan film Rock, Paper, Scissors wears its despair on its sleeve, but rolls them up to deliver a forceful and thrilling adventure. At first, the story by director Hernan Jabes and his co-writer Irina Dendouk seems like it might be a portrait of Caracas like Crash (2004) was for Los Angeles or the earlier John Sayles and Lawrence Kasden films which acted as Paul Haggis’ template, City of Hope and Grand Canyon. The cast of characters represent a cross-section of a stressed city: A well-to-do married couple with a kid, a young waitress (Scarlett Jaimes) with a thuggish boyfriend (Leandro Arvelo) and his dementia-affected mother.

the vengeful husband is a great role for Urbina

Mari (Gloria Montoya) nags her workaholic husband, Hector (Leonidas Urbina), into driving their son, Luis (Ivan Gonzalez Roa), to school as the males never spend any time together and she has something important to attend to. With some reluctance, Hector agrees, even though he has to be on a plane out of town later that morning. All seems well, until Luis says a detail of his model for his school project must have become unglued and so they go back home to retrieve it. Pulling up to their home, but at a distance due to some road construction, Hector sees Mari climb into a man’s car and gets a good indication of what his wife’s plans are for the day. Angered, Hector follows the car to a motel and sits his son in the café where he asks the waitress, Valentina, to keep an eye on the boy while he confronts his wife and her lover. Meanwhile, Valentina’s no-hoper boyfriend has upset the gang leader he’s entangled with and needs to quickly raise some cash to smooth things over once more. Panicked and threatened with death, he goes to the café where Valentina works and holds it up. He takes his waitress girlfriend as a phony hostage, but finds that in the melee that he has also accidentally taken the waiting boy Luis along as a hostage too.

It’s a great set up, and gives the film the Dog Day Afternoon atmosphere of a crime that so quickly spins out of control as opposed to the smart plans so beloved of movie and television criminals. Things only get worse as a couple of ex-cops acting as mercenary kidnap-busters get involved. Not only do their clients, Hector and Mari, prove unwilling to perform as per instructions, but the gangsters get nastier, greedier and due to a perverse comedy of errors, their hostage list gets longer. Some of the narrative twists are a tad on the illogical side. However, since not all of the characters are always acting in their own best interests, the actors do a convincing enough job that allows the film to skate over a couple of the crazier decisions made.

In particular, the vengeful husband is a great role for Urbina as he is caught between his love for his son and his rage at his wife’s infidelities. There is a moment where he acts lucidly, which is appropriate, however since nearly everything else he has done up to that point indicates that he’s on the brink of losing control, it proves a little hard to believe. Some narrative decisions are clearly forced, but for the benefit of moving the plot forward, it’s excusable. Fortunately, director Hernan Jabes and his editor keeps things moving at a swift enough pace for the less observant film-goer not to worry.