Intacto (2001) — Playing hot potato with luck

“Am I not a lucky man, Frederico?”

Rich’s rating: This film makes its own luck.

Rich’s review: I’m really glad I’ve seen this film, for reasons which, bizarrely, are nothing to do with the film at all. The reason I’m happy I’ve seen this film is, because of the nature of the subject the film tackles, I can spend the first few paragraphs ranting about something that really, really bugged me, and then vaguely tie my spleen-venting into the review of the film, hopefully slipping completely under the nose of Justin that I am using this review to bitch out a car manufacturer for making me look like an idiot.

My, wasn’t that a long sentence?

Right, ranting begins here; non-rant fans, feel free to skim down a few paragraphs and I promise I’ll get your attention when the review of the film starts.

Back in the late ’90s or the early part of this decade, over here in the UK there was a series of previews shown for a new film called Lucky Star. Apparently starring Benecio Del Toro and directed by Heat’s Director Michael Mann, it looked like a really interesting crime drama about a guy who’s luck never ran out. It looked sleek, stylish, and the premise sounded really interesting; so, I shilled this film to everyone I knew.

“You’ve gotta look out for this film,” I told them all, “this is gonna be a stunner.”

I came out of movies disappointed if I didn’t see the trailer for Lucky Star. I anticipated and anticipated and anticipated, always looking for release dates, but studiously avoiding any Internet ‘hype’ about this film, so nothing about it would be spoiled for me. That turned out to be my fatal mistake.

Because, what the world knew and I did not, was that this ‘preview’ was just a cleverly disguised advert for a car which appeared in about 30 seconds of the trailer. When someone told me, mentally I slipped into the cycle of grief.

  1. Denial. “Of course it’s a real film…you’re just winding me up, pulling my leg, having a laugh, et al.”
  2. Doubt. “Right?”
  3. Realisation. “Let’s see what the Internet has to say about this… it’s a Car Advert?”
  4. Anger. “IT’S A CAR ADVERT?!”

Normally, Step 5 is Loss/Grief and Step 6 is Acceptance/Rationalisation; trouble is, I still haven’t made it past step 4 as far as ‘The Lucky Star Fiasco’ is concerned’; I’m not sure how successful this deceitful advertising ambush was for their sales, but I can guarantee one thing; if it’s a choice between me owning a Mercedes-Benz or being dragged backwards through a field of nails and broken glass while being constantly sprinkled with lemon juice and salt, get the bandages ready, and I’ll see you at the other side of the desert of a million cuts, where I’ll happily bleed all over your underhanded, hope-dashing paintwork.

What upset me more than anything, apart from the crippling loss of credibility amongst everyone who I’d told “look out for this great film”, was that the idea to me still had outstanding potential. When I wasn’t plotting elaborate ways in which to make the Advertising Executives of Mercedes Benz suffer though the creative use of various household objects, I was plotting in my head how good a film it could have been; I wanted someone to take that spark of an idea and breathe life into it. Only then could I rest.

Intacto is without doubt the closest I’m going to get to that. Ah, the joy of a perfect segue.

NAKED WOMEN are in short supply in Intacto (And a warm welcome back to those who skimmed down — told you I would get your attention), but that’s neither here nor there. In the world in which Intacto is set, naked women in fact play second fiddle (there’s a mental image for you) to another group of people even more interesting, dangerous, and not accepted in polite company (I am on FIRE for segues here).

The story of Intacto centres around a unique group of people; people who can literally take the luck of others and transfer it to themselves. With just a touch of their hand on yours, and suddenly any luck you had is gone. The more people’s luck they collect, the luckier they become. These people run a series of very high stakes games of chance; each betting that their luck is stronger than their opponents.

The luckiest man in the world is The Jew (played very creepily by Max Von Sydow), who’s casino in the middle of the Spanish desert is home to the most dangerous game in the world; Russian Roulette; five chambers loaded, head to head with The Jew himself. The stakes — everything the other person has. His luck is unchallenged, and no-one has ever beaten him.

But when his right hand man Frederico, a man with the same gift as The Jew, decides to leave the casino, Max takes it personally and strips Frederico of his luck before sending him on his way. Without his gift, Frederico drifts through life, his only purpose a growing desire for revenge against the luckiest man alive.

And that’s where Intacto really begins; with Frederico’s search for another man with ‘The Gift’, someone he can train himself and eventually take back to the casino to challenge The Jew in his place. The trouble with Frederico’s choice is that he chooses on-the-run bank robber Tomas, who is in turn being pursued by ‘Gifted’ policewoman Sara.

The chase begins in earnest; Frederico and Tomas moving from game to game to earn the right to go into the desert and challenge The Jew; Sara, and her ‘mentor’ in the ways of the gifted and their games, a corrupt bullfighter named Alejandro, and The Jew’s minions, still looking for Frederico.

Sound interesting? It is. Some of the concepts in the film are incredibly well thought out; such as the concept of people betting on ‘captives’, photos of people who willing let the gifted absorb their luck in return for money, and some of the ways they try to make the games totally random are really interesting.

The story is kind of slow-paced, however. It seems to meander along in the background of the interesting setting, only really poking its head out and making itself known for the final feel. In addition, there are really no ‘good guys’ in the entire film. In fact, having watched it again, it seems that the Antagonist (The Jew) really has the cleanest moral slate of any of the films characters. That certainly doesn’t stop it being interesting, however.

But don’t let that put you off. I’m still convinced this is a good, if not a great film, and it’s certainly worth watching if you like your thrillers a little bit different.

Didja notice?

  • Another thriller where polaroid cameras play an important part.
  • The way they indicate the games for the gifted in casino’s with the deliberately flickering ‘O’s in their neon signs?
  • For a Spanish film, the remarkable amount of English spoken throughout

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