Intacto (2002)
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Review Date: December 02, 2002
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Writer: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andrés M. Koppel
Producers: Sebastián Álvarez
Leonardo Sbaraglia as Tomás
Eusebio Poncela as Federico
Max von Sydow as Samuel
Can human beings actually stockpile "luck"? Is there an underground world of lucky people who gamble against one another with their respective destinies as the resulting prize? Can someone actually build up their good fortune and use it to better their own life and of those around them? This film tracks a couple of guys who believe just that and take part in every game of chance around the block. Luck, good and bad, ensues.
I've been grooving to see this picture ever since I saw an early teaser of it at this year's San Diego Comic Con. The trailer didn't give away too much, but did splash together enough style and intrigue to wet my appetite, and now that I've seen the entire thing, I can't say that I was disappointed. In fact, if originality, gambling, luck, fate and mystery are pieces of the cinematic pie that you like to see explored, this flick will likely engage you as well. I liked this movie because it offered an underground perspective at the idea of "luck" and how one person's good luck can be transmitted, exercised and yes...even bet on. I liked all of the actors in this film as well, all of whom offered credible performances, but I most especially appreciated Max von Sydow, who didn't have too many scenes, but really stood out of the ones in which he took part. I also dug on the whole look of the film, especially the stuff inside the casino, which was as Lynch-ian as it gets, with red walls all around, concrete infrastructure and plenty of bizarre behavior for everyone (although definitely not as kooky as Lynch). But at the end of the day, it was the games of luck themselves which intrigued me the most. Yes, I liked how the story developed the idea of how one person's luck can build up over time, how luck could be "transmitted" and how someone could use their own luck to help another ("I don't love you anymore"), but the competitions of chance themselves were what really brought out the intensity in this film's otherwise measured pace. These folks are whacked!

Having said that, I was actually hoping for more games (the film only featured a handful). My favorite was the one in which every contestant was blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs and sent running through a forest full of huge trees at top speed: with the last man standing being declared the winner (i.e. the luckiest of them all). I also liked how they concluded the film with everything coming together for the ultimate game of risk, although I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole "cop" subplot. To a certain extent, I can see why a detective might've been necessary to the story at hand, but on the other hand, I'm not sure why she also had to be one of the "lucky" ones. Another central plot point that I wasn't entirely clear about, or sure that I fully appreciated, was the idea of these lucky folks trading "pictures" of others as part of their destiny games. I don't think the idea behind the photo trading was developed enough for my liking (why couldn't they just trade any pictures of any person-how would anyone know the difference?), but this might just be a concept in the film that I simply did not grasp the first time around. The film also moves much slower than you would think, with more than a few rounds in the car, with the two leads moving from one destination to another. I think some of that stuff could have been cut down, with other stuff requiring a little more development. But on the whole, the film worked and it had a lot to do with the subject matter at hand, which has always been a fascination of mine: fate. Luck is handled much like a commodity in this film, and with the solid acting, the high style and all of the explanations and examples given within, it's easy to buy into the whole game and roll your dice along with the rest of the players.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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