Hit Or Miss: Netflix's Monzón

On Friday, October 25th, Netflix will premiere the new Spanish language show, Monzón. The show is created by Disney’s Leonardo Aranguibel who gained fame for the series Selena’s Secret and Until I Met You. The show focuses on the life and murder trial of Argentinian middle-weight boxing star Carlos Monzón. Widely considered one of the greatest of all time, Carlos Monzón lived a highly publicized life during his outstanding boxing career. In 1973, while in at the height of his career, Monzón was shot in the leg by his wife. This incident, which occurred under suspicious circumstances, began to show a new side of Monzón. The anger and aggression that aided him in his boxing career began to manifest in his domestic life. His negative publicity came to a boiling point when he was brought to trial and subsequently imprisoned for the murder of his then wife Alicia Muñiz. The incident occurred in 1988 during a vacation in the resort city of Mara Del Plata. Despite this conviction, many fans stayed faithful and supportive. During a weekend a furlough while still in imprisoned, Monzón flipped his car and was killed instantly. His death was met with mourning and praise for his outstanding career. Monzón’s constant support despite his violence pointed to a culture toxic cultural moment.

For those who do not know Monzón, the trailer may come across as a kind of murder-mystery. The trailer opens with images from the autopsy. The camera slowly tracks a bloodied staircase. Monzón rises out of unconsciousness next to the dead body of his wife. He appears confused and his shoulder is injured. He slowly glances over at the body, shocked by the gore of the moment. The background music could easily find itself in a horror film. Cacophonous strings hum loudly over moody images. Suddenly, a very low bass note is played, raising tension in the sequence. The trailer rushes forward with Monzón being bombarded by the media and paparazzi. This sequence could point to the publicity after the murder, but also the general publicity experienced by Monzón during his career. An air of mystery is maintained throughout the trailer. The dramatic aspects are emphasized while sustaining the narrative coherence. It is clear that a murder has occured and who may have done it.

The trailer skips around in time a bit. We see images from the show’s “present” as well as the past. The necessity of this is unclear, but more than likely the show will try to explore the conditions leading up to the murder. Roses slowly fall from the perspective of a casket in the ground. An investigation into the murder begins. Things become increasingly violent in the trailer as the music suggests the feeling of coming apart. Voiceover asks, “Are you going to talk?” Monzón responds, “Of course I’m going to talk. I’ve got nothing to hide.” This response plays over an image of the crime scene being investigated. The last image in the trailer is a loose close- up of Monzón saying, “I am Carlos Monzón.” The trailer focuses closely on the figure of Monzón. As far as the trailer is concerned, the show is very much about him. One can only hope that there will be an exploration of culture, fame, and masculinity in crisis.

Like any biopic with an eponymous title, the show must contend with the actions of their protagonist. In this case, Monzón will have to address a history of violence. This can be a precarious thing to do, especially when you name the show after your protagonist. Things may seem cut and dried since there was a conviction, but he remains an idol for many people. The show must walk a tightrope, being careful not to valorize this figure. The role his victims play in the show should be presented as humanizing and not just narrative chess pieces. The show should explore the conditions that allowed this violence to flourish. All this is to say, the show has promise, but it is not an easy journey. The cinematography looks to be strong and emotive. The acting looks nuanced. There are many promising aspects to the show. This biopic has the opportunity to make an honest portrait of a polarizing national hero and a particular cultural moment. Monzón will likely not have the particular resonance it does for Argentinians when it becomes streamable in the United States. He will most likely be a new face and story. This places the show in the position of cultural historian. It will be worth watching to see how the story unfolds and the depths that the show is willing to explore. For those interested in the dramatic downward spiral of a polarizing boxing champion, Monzón may provide a compelling narrative exploration.