North Bend FF Review: ‘The Gasoline Thieves’ Lingers in Charted Territory

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Melodramatic tearjerkers are fairly common. You’ve seen so many even by the age of twenty that you could probably pen one on the spot if you were asked, and because of that, creatives really need something to say if they’re gonna make a film in that genre. One such film, The Gasoline Thieves, chooses such a path with the hopes for exposing you to the harrowing conditions brought about by Mexico’s social and economic conditions.

 That setting alone and the conflicts in there are interesting enough, but the major issue with the film is how it likes to tie itself down to the protagonist. To the film’s detriment, the social commentary takes a backseat to the saddening events on screen and nulled by the fundamental cliches of the genre it hails from.

With the affection for a girl in his heart, fourteen year-old Lalo tries to win her over with monetary lures. The problem is he has no money. With his uncle putting an economic burden on his family and no job, he resorts to a life of stealing fuel with a local gang to earn money. But no malicious deed goes unpunished and trouble follows Lalo as he tries to outlast the life brought onto him by his environment.

The most interesting element of the film is the underlying political commentary in the film. As corruption in the Mexican government creates economic conditions that give rise to violence, the effects it has on citizens is an intriguing proposition. However, these topics are only mentioned in passing and presented as the backdrop for the film, choosing to focus on Lalo first and foremost. It’s a creative choice that doesn’t connect fully given how the political landscape could have been explored further and made the film’s aims more pronounced.

The flip end of that is more time with Lalo, which ends up being rather rudimentary. Beginning with promise, the film walks itself down an all too familiar path of melodramatic crime dramas. The poor individual seeks a better life. The system has got him down. He resorts to a life of crime. He enjoys a life of opulence. Things go sour, and then the protagonist is punished. It is well charted territory, and I personally didn’t find a major saving grace to reconcile the central issue. I felt if The Gasoline Thieves engaged more firmly with the issues causing Lalo’s moral descent, then maybe we’d have something.