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Intacto (R)
Lions Gate Films
Official Site
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Producers: Sebastián Álvarez
Written by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andrés M. Koppel
Cast: Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Mónica López, Max Von Sydow

Rating: out of 5

It’s a shame that Intacto won’t be seen by more people, not because they’d all fall in love with this tense tale of kismet, but rather I think it would sharply divide opinions and generate the kind of heated discussions that just aren’t being provoked by many American films this year.

The movie is grounded on an audacious premise that there’s a select group of people out there with the mixed blessing of being able to absorb luck and to some degree control their fortunes. The benefits of such a gift are obvious. For instance, the main character Tomas (Sbaraglia) miraculously manages to survive an airplane crash at the film’s beginning. But there are consequences to those around you, whom you may inadvertently divest of their own luck. Such is the case for a detective whose jinx caused her family’s death.

Surviving the plane crash leads Tomas to Fredrico (Poncela), who works as an insurance agent primarily to discover new talent for clandestine games of chance played by such gifted individuals. It’s these games that really give Spanish director Fresnadillo his best set pieces. Imaginative, tense, and funny, these scenes suggest Cronenberg, or perhaps a more serious Lynch, and show Fresnadillo to be a genuine talent.

Fredrico coercively initiates Tomas into this strange underground with hopes of revenge against the “God of chance,” a Jewish gambler who stripped Fredrico of his own gift. This mysterious fellow (played by Bergman favorite Von Sydow) survived the Holocaust and now conducts an especially lethal game of Russian roulette (five loaded chambers) which is the pinnacle of all these bizarre games.

It’s in the turgid and needlessly dense details that Intacto sometimes runs aground. The tenets of the power are difficult to distinguish. Likewise the purpose of the games and the characters’ motivations are similarly opaque, all of which serves to estrange us from the characters. It’s only Lopez’s jinxed detective, Sara, who really resonates. Were it not for the talent of Fresnadillo, the whole film would likely be dismissible as a cold abstraction, but he somehow manages to imbue the nonsense with a palpable sense of mysticism that makes you suspend disbelief and simply marvel at his construction.

—Edward Rholes


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