The Initiated (Los Iniciados) review – A tense, gritty, and menacing slow burn

By Marc Miller
Published: July 9, 2023 (Last updated: January 5, 2024)
The Initiated (Los Iniciados) review - A tense, gritty, and menacing slow burn


The Initiated is a tense, gritty, and menacing slow burn that makes excellent use of tone, pacing, and atmosphere.

This review of the Prime Video film The Initiated (Los Iniciados) does not contain spoilers.

The Initiated (Los Iniciados) is a movie that has it all. A manic, weathered, alcohol-soaked protector of the truth. A villain who blurs the lines between faith and the sinful. Even a masked woman who fights in the name of those who cannot do so for themselves.

This Prime Video streaming film is a visceral Colombian punk-noir, one that combines the genre sensibilities of a political thriller and a gritty procedural, all coated in an atmosphere reminiscent of something ripped from an ominous comic book adaptation with thrilling results.

The story follows Frank Molina (Andrés Parra), a journalist who has fallen on hard times, self-medicating his manic depression. He becomes embroiled in the case of his former student, Moni, a transgender reporter who runs an independent outlet reporting on the toxic water crisis and the recent surge in disappearances.

The Initiated (Los Iniciados) review and plot summary

After trying to persuade Frank to help report on the issues Moni is investigating, she dies, and the police believe it’s a suicide. With the assistance of Moni’s best friend, Gaby (Aria Jara), they set out to uncover the truth behind her death. However, Gaby has her backstory, hiding behind a mask as a professional wrestler known as Lady Massacre. She is also involved with a local politician, Ignacio (Juan Pablo Urrego), who may know more than he lets on.

The Initiated is based on Mario Mendoza‘s Frank Molina series of books. The novels were born from the journalism crisis happening south of the American border from Mexico to Colombia. Journalists are being attacked and even killed for reporting illegal activities. (Watch an excellent Netflix documentary on the subject, Private Network: Who Killed Manuel Buendía?). The importance of the profession, and the honor bestowed with it, has never been more critical.

Directed by Juan Felipe Orozco (Al final del espectro), working with an adaptation from Esteban Orozco and Nicolás Serrano, The Initiated is a tense, gritty, and menacing slow burn that makes excellent use of tone, pacing, and atmosphere. The film uses multiple Mendoza novels as its canvas, including Lady Massacre, La Melancolia de los feos, Diario del Fin del Mundo, and Akelarre.

Orozco takes Mendoza’s novels to tell a story of obsession, political corruption, and the invisible lines between the commerce of sensationalism and journalist ethics. The director isn’t afraid to make the viewer uneasy with taboo subjects, perceived amoral behavior, and activists who defend high-risk groups like LGBTQ+ and the poverty-stricken to tell a good story.

Along with cinematographer Camilo Monsalve‘s ominous camera work, the setting appears more like Gotham. Molina is the comic book hero whose superpower is his pen. Manuel Jose Gordillo‘s (Snatched) score reverberates throughout the picture in a way that powerfully resonates with the metaphor of the profession being something more than reporting just reporting the news.

Is The Initiated (Los iniciados) good or bad?

The Initiated (Los Iniciados) is a good crime thriller with an excellent lead performance by the film’s star, Andrés Parra. The actor plays the role brilliantly here, slowly winding up the manic behavior in his performance. The turn goes way beyond general paranoia and having friends not believing him.

The final shot of Parra’s Molina, encompassing what he does best, sums up the film perfectly.

Is The Initiated (Los Iniciados) worth watching?

The Initiated (Los Iniciados) is worth watching for Parra. Watch as he unwinds Molina from irritable curmudgeon to excessive rapid thoughts and manic flights of bipolar pressure rants long after loved ones leave his side. This is a great performance for a genre picture that will go primarily unnoticed and is worthy of praise.

Do you think I’m wrong? When Parra delivers the line, “Nothing is for the people,” so perfectly, you’ll know it as well.

What did you think of The Initiated (Los Iniciados)? Comment below.

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