(director/writer: Alonso Ruiz Palacios; screenwriter: Manuel Alcalá; cinematographer: Damián García; editor: Yibrán Asuad; music: Tomás Barreiro; cast: Leonardo Ortizgris (Wilson), Gael García Bernal (Juan Nuñez), Simon Russell Beale (Frank Graves), Alfredo Castro (Dr. Nuñezz), Bernardo Velasco (Bosco), Lynn Gilmartin (Gemma), Leticia Brédice (Sherezada), Ilse Salas (Silvia), Lisa Owen (Sra. Nuñez); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Gerardo Gatica, Alberto Müffelmann, Manuel Alcalá, Ramiro Ruiz; YouTube; 2018-Mexico-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“An exciting Mexican thriller based on a real-life robbery.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An exciting Mexican thriller based on a real-life robbery, which seems similar in plot to the heist by teenagers in American Animals. Mexican filmmaker Alonso Ruiz Palacios (“Güeros”) directs and co-writes the offbeat amateur caper with Manuel Alcalá.
It’s set in 1985 and tells about two middle-class loser college students, the mamma’s boy veterinary student Juan (Garcia Bernal) and his loyal college classmate and partner in crime, the some time narrator, Benjamin Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris). They rob an unprotected archeological museum in Mexico City of an invaluable collection of 140 Mayan and Mesoamerican antiques, when its closed for renovations during the holidays. On Christmas Eve, Juan leaves his family holiday party early, in Satellite City, and bullies his passive pal Wilson to join him to pull off the heist at the new National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. After the suspenseful heist is successful, not even an alarm is in the place that is holding such priceless art, Juan hides the loot in his bedroom closet.
Next Juan steals daddy’s car and with his pal they head for the Mayan archeological site of Palenque in the Chiapas to fence their stolen art. But their tour guide contact Bosco (Bernardo Velasco) shuns them after reading about it in the newspapers and becoming wary of the country-wide search for the thieves. Next a meeting with a rich British collector (Simon Russell Beale) in Acapulco goes sour. This frustrates the goofy prankster Juan, who is riled up with anxiety and gets bounced from a seedy nightclub for fighting only to end up on the beach with porn star Sherezada Rios (Leticia Bredice). The film is better and more profound than I expected. Bernal’s performance is dazzling. As a kid he knew about the historical treasures stolen by his government from Indian natives and on an impulse steals them without having a good plan in place or really caring about the cultural thefts made by his country. He steals because the suburbanite is bored and has nothing else to do.
The playful film strays from the facts, which only enriches the comedy, charm and shock at how incompetent is the Mexican government, that even two amateurs, on a lark, could so easily pull off such a big-time heist during their watch. The film has more fire in its belly attacking the Mexican government for its mediocrity than the unstable Juan for his foolishness.
REVIEWED ON 9/13/2018 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/