Though based on a true story about the terrorist methods of the Argentine government (circa 1977), Chronicle of an Escape feels more like an exploitation B movie for those who get off on rough prison wardens and mistreated, hapless victims.

No doubt director and co-screenwriter Israel Adrian Caetano would like to bring to light the brutality of the fascists in charge of the South American country in the 1970s. There is also a not-so-subtle allusion to the torture tactics perpetrated today by the U.S. government in Iraq and beyond. Yet, while the story highlights the wrongs committed whenever power gets out of hand, Chronicle of an Escape has the opposite effect of what was intended: Like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the film becomes a kind of pornography of torture.

It is true that the escape part of the story takes up much of the second half of the running time, but it is the first half, the kidnapping and torturing of four innocent young men, that dominates the proceedings. It is hard to forget the images of Claudio Tamburrini (Rodrigo de la Serna), the minor league soccer player, and his three comrades being stripped and humiliated, nearly drowned in a bathtub of water, mopped down with disinfectant, et al. Worse still is witnessing Claudio’s mother being tortured at the very beginning of the film. In some ways, Chronicle of an Escape is even more gratuitous and exploitative than that classic prison movie of the ’70s, Midnight Express, and not so different stylistically from the current-day horror flick, Hostel.

By the time the story shifts to the escape, one is too exhausted to root for the protagonists, and despite the non-fictional element, the breakout scenes are highly reminiscent of a Hollywood action movie.

On the credit side, Chronicle of an Escape boasts credible performances, noir-ish cinematography by Julian Apezteguia, and convincingly grubby sets by production designers Juan Mario Roust and Jorge Ferrari. In this case, however, stark realism just makes the whole experience all the more repellent. So maybe these aren’t plusses after all. Once you start watching Chronicle of an Escape, you’ll be wanting to escape yourself!