This is the story of Panceta, a young labourer from one of the poorer suburbs in Buenos Aires. He lives with his mother, a widow, who greatly misses her husband.
Panceta's life revolves around his work: he splits his time between working in a pipe factory, and running the forge he inherited from his father. It's a dead end and seemingly there is no way out. Panceta dreams of making money and escaping the humdrum of his daily life; like so many before him, he starts to slip into a life of crime.
Following a chance meeting, and in a bid to make some money to fuel his dreams, Panceta turns his skills to making pipe guns and selling them to small time hoods and hoodlums in the slums. Inexperienced and unaware of the danger, he is challenged by the local mafia.
While out one night delivering his guns he meets Clara, a young girl working at the local social club. They fall in love and decide to run away together, embarking on a liberating boat trip along the river. Panceta's life takes on new meaning. However, it's not easy to escape the darker world he has become part of, and the distraction that gives him hope makes him easy prey for his enemies - especially for Tacom, a powerful local mafia boss.
As Panceta becomes entrapped in the jaws of the underworld, what had begun as a game turns grey and ever darker - the consequences are tragic and tormenting.
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