Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Intacto (2003)
15

Stop! Before you read any further, this is the kind of film that ought to have a government health warning plastered over it.

Make no mistake, writer-director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's stunning debut is so fiendishly cunning that even the most jaded cinema audiences will leave the auditorium feeling dizzy, confused, and totally disorientated. Not to mention absolutely refreshed.

After a build up like that, chances are "Intacto" is probably going to disappoint, but watching this off-kilter story about gambling, the odds are definitely still in its favour.

Delivering one of the most original set-ups of modern cinema, Fresnadillo takes us on a journey into a bizarre world where chance, luck and fortune are palpable forces.

Imagine if you could steal the luck from those around you? That's the axis on which this inventive thriller revolves, setting up a strange underworld of gamblers who are all competing for the grand prize... a face-off against "The Jew" (Max von Sydow), rumoured to be the luckiest man alive (not least since he survived the concentration camps), for a game of Russian Roulette using five live rounds.

Taking his "Marxist idea of luck" into some murky areas, Fresnadillo delivers an interesting picture of the disastrous consequences that this "gift" has on his hero Tomás (Leonardo Sbaraglia).

Poaching the luck from those around him, whether he wants to or not, Tomás gradually realises what "The Jew" already knows - fortune doesn't always have to be good.

As the originality of the set-up fades, though, what really stands out is Fresnadillo's noirish, moody visuals - "The Jew" lives in a casino where fruit machines constantly blink and flicker - and his effortless ability to play fast and loose with audience expectations.

No wonder Hollywood's already snapped up the remake rights...

Odds are they won't do it justice.

End Credits

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Writer: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andrés M Koppel

Stars: Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Max von Sydow, Antonio Dechent, Mónica López

Genre: Thriller, World Cinema

Length: 108 minutes

Cinema: 11 April 2003

Country: Spain

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