Common Wealth (2000) / Thriller-Comedy
aka La Comunidad

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language, nudity and sexuality
Running Time: 110 min.

Cast: Carmen Maura, Eduardo Atuna, Maria Asquerino, Emilio Gutierrez Caba, Roberto Perdomo, Jesus Bonilla, Enrique Villen, Marta Fernandez Muro, Paca Bagaldon, Ane Gabarain, Sancho Gracia, Manuel Tejada, Kiti Manver
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Screenplay: Jorge Guerricaechevarria, Alex de la Iglesia

Review published August 29, 2005

Hitchcock meets Almodovar in this Spanish black comedy by Alex de la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Dance with the Devil).  Carmen Maura (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Law of Desire) stars as real estate agent Julia, out to sell a cozy apartment in a strange building filled with nosy neighbors.  When water starts to leak through the ceiling from the apartment above, it is soon discovered that the upstairs inhabitant has been dead for some time.  Julia happens to stumble upon a hidden recess in the floor that contains over $300 million pesetas.  She packages the money up in a suitcase, but the wily neighbors have been waiting anxiously to get their hands on that money themselves, and they won't let her leave the building without paying the price. 

Cheeky and irreverent, with lots of style, Common Wealth scores the lion's share of its points in the initial hour of set-up, with some witty banter, engaging situations, and a few mild thrills in the mix.  The second half isn't as much fun, but isn't so bad that the film comes completely unhinged.  There's very little of the laughs and intrigue left to discover by this point, ultimately becoming a standard free-for-all melee between Julia and the apartment complex tenants for control of the stash of money.  Cutting de la Iglesia some slack here, the visual elements do merit some interest, and some nifty twists and turns allow him to coast to the finish line with finesse.

Pop culture references abound, and it will particularly delight Star Wars fanatics, with some tongue-in-cheek references that Kevin Smith would deem worthy of applause.  As a satire on money, greed, and the effects on otherwise good people, De la Iglesia definitely delivers the goods with potency.  He takes a bit longer than necessary to wrap this up, and yet, it's hard to fault him much for lingering when he has so many good character actors to spotlight.

Common Wealth will tickle the funny bones of viewers that enjoy darker comedies, wild farces with eccentric characters, and especially fans of Carmen Maura.  You'll laugh, you'll wince, you'll smile, and you'll gag -- the sheer audacity is more than enough to hold your interest throughout.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo