‘The Initiated’ (2023) Review: A Gritty Tale About A Dystopic City Where Corruption Strangles The Poor

If you were born as a human, it doesn’t take you long to realize that nothing in this world comes for free except two things. The air you breathe and the refreshing rain that brings relief to the scorched lands and parched throats. But what if this purifying rain was a toxic sludge that burned the innards of anyone who tried drinking it because the other sources of clean water are gone? Notable Colombian author Mario Mendoza’s story, adapted for Amazon Prime, The Initiated, tells a tale about a dystopia where freshwater is history, and the rain is acid. The condition of the people of the city is like a castaway afloat on a raft amidst a vast sea, and he’s dying of thirst, but he can’t drink the water all around him.

That’s not all; the bourgeoisie of the city, who can bring about change, are so absorbed in the race to be famous that they ignore the very people they want to represent. But then again, isn’t that the story of every government? We don’t even need a dystopia to imagine a mayor who focuses more on his political campaign than the people who are dying in the city. Director J. Felipe Orozco’s dark thriller The Initiated, aka “Los Iniciados,” shows us the real image of greed, love, hatred, and the quest for truth in this edge-of-your-seat movie.

Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘The Initiated’?

A Spanish-speaking town where it rains perpetually is on its last legs as the acidic rain causes more and more deaths every day, and there’s no freshwater to drink. On top of that, people in the town have been disappearing continuously, without a trace, and the police are useless, although that’s not a surprise. The police are usually a tool at the disposal of the one who holds the scepter of power, so it’s no wonder that the police make no bones about investigating the increasing disappearances, nor do they bother to bring an end to the growing discord in the city. Frank Molina, a journalist-turned-drunkard who spent some time in a mental institution after a psychological breakdown, is struggling to find work, but news organizations don’t care about thought provoking editorial pieces. Media craves sensationalism, and raunchy pictures and pictures of dead bodies offer the morbid and sadistic pleasure that the media thrives off. When one such picture of a dead body comes to Frank’s attention, he decides to put his soul into getting to the bottom of the cancer that has gripped the city.

Frank had spent the previous night speaking to his former student, Monica Perea, a transwoman who was the voice of resistance against corruption in the city. When she’s found dead, and the cause of death is quickly dismissed as suicide, both Frank and Monica’s best friend, Gaby Lopez, become suspicious. A famous luchadora, Gaby was ferocious inside the ring, but outside, she was deeply in love with Ignacio Pombo, the potential Mayor of the city. Ignacio was passionate about introducing a new bill that’d revolutionize the city and was also set to marry a powerful and high-standing woman, but he secretly continued his affair with this feisty wrestler.

Meanwhile, Frank began his vociferous investigation and eventually discovered a foundry, the real owner of which had gone missing, but the foundry itself was under the name of a man named Torres. What Frank found inside the foundry was nightmarish, however. Everyone who refused to bend to the will of a (metaphorical) massive beast with many teeth and fangs ended up at the bottom of the foundry in ashes. Frank’s investigations got him at the wrong end of the worst kind of people, but determined to reach an end to this canker that was slowly engulfing his city; Frank kept pushing without fail. Perhaps the only other person who was truly trying to help the impoverished dying of thirst was Father Lazaro, a priest who would bring clean water to the thirsty and bread to the starving. From where did Father Lazaro bring this clean water to a city that was dying of thirst? Why did the people keep disappearing one after the other, and what did the powerful people want from them? Does Frank reach the bottom of the answers, or does he fall prey to this machine that ingests the hapless and helpless and spits out the bones? The Initiated is one movie you shouldn’t miss to find out these answers and more.


The Positives

J. Felipe Orozco’s movie brings the neo-noir tinge that we’d witnessed in David Fincher’s Se7en, what with the constant rainfall, the dull and grayish color palette, and the pallid faces of the poor. The constant rain, which is loaded with acid, works as the perfect backdrop against which this dying city has to struggle to stay up. The movie makes you despise rain, the purest of nature’s creations that brings relief to the earth, and Orozco’s cinematography shows how this could be our future too.

The selected cast is brilliant; Andres Parra, Aria Jara, Juan Pablo Urrego, and the others shine in their roles and truly capture the tone of the movie. Within a few minutes, you find yourself totally immersed in the story, and soon you feel the same impatience as Frank to get to the bottom of the big secret. Andres Parra perfectly captures the persona of a drunk journalist who refuses to take his meds and goes on rambles where he vows to destroy that metaphorical monster in one scene and hides in a corner, hugging himself in the next. Aria Jara is just as capable of capturing the audience’s attention inside the ring with her fists as she’s able to express heartfelt emotions outside the squared circle. Special mention goes out to Lomaasbello because of how she manages to rally the audience to support her character Monica in the resistance she keeps up till her last breath.


The Negatives

Although there’s not much that makes you frown in this movie, the only qualm one could have about this thriller is the length it stretches for. Of course, most of the runtime is necessary for the buildup, but certain scenes between Gaby and Ignacio seem additional and could’ve been shortened to reduce the runtime a little. The other thing that might strike as odd is that the evil lord has only one henchman to do his dirty work, whereas powerful dictators possess a legion of such evildoers. However, the amazing direction doesn’t let you notice these tiny flaws and keeps you hooked till the end.


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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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Although there's not much that makes you frown in this movie, the only qualm one could have about this thriller is the length it stretches for.'The Initiated' (2023) Review: A Gritty Tale About A Dystopic City Where Corruption Strangles The Poor