DIRECTED BY Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
STARRING Max Von Sydow, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela
Opens April 11, Cert 15, 108 Mins
Coming on like a cross between David Fincher's The Game and M Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, the debut feature from writer/director Fresnadillo is a twisted, ingeniously constructed thriller. The basic premise is that luck is a commodity, a resource that's more plentiful in some—say, survivors of plane crashes, natural disasters or wars—than others, and those blessed with such extraordinary levels of good fortune also have the ability to steal luck from others.
Meet Frederico (Poncela), an earthquake survivor who now works in a remote and highly illegal casino where he subtly divests punters of their winning streaks. Holocaust survivor Samuel Berg (Von Sydow) runs the casino—an ominous place which resembles an annexe to David Lynch's Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. There, challengers take Samuel on at his chosen game—Russian Roulette with five bullets instead of one. Samuel always wins. So when Frederico falls foul of his boss and gets stripped of his gift, he knows he needs to find someone with the luck of the devil if he's ever to get revenge on Samuel. Which is where Tomas (Sbaraglia) comes in—a petty criminal and the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash. But Tomas is being tailed by Sara—a policewoman who survived a car accident and is obsessed with uncovering the truth about Samuel's gambling ring...
Fresnadillo constructs a precarious house of cards that stands or falls depending on the audience's willingness to stick with the film throughout its various, convoluted plot twists. The central idea is a strong one, but it gets a little buried under layers of enigmatic plotting. Still, it's an exceptionally handsome film, stylishly shot, with the game sequences in particular beautifully realised.
Like fellow Spaniard Alejandro Amenábar's Abre Los Ojos, Fresnadillo's film may depend on repeated viewings for it to be fully appreciated. And also like Amenábar's film, it's proof of the incredible vitality of contemporary Spanish cinema. Damn spectacular stuff.
Rating: 4 / 10