Intacto (2001) / Thriller-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: R for violence, language and brief nudity
Running Time: 108 min.

Cast: Eusebio Poncela, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Monica Lopez, Antonio Dechent, Max von Sydow, Guillermo Toledo
Director:  Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Screenplay: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andres M. Koppel

Review published August 12, 2003

Everyone talks about luck in some form or fashion.  If you win the lottery, people would most likely touch you, wanting the luck to rub off on them.  Obviously, people do this in jest.  But what if luck could rub off?  What if luck could be passed from person to person?  What if someone figured out how luck worked, sought out people who seemed to have good luck, and touched them, amassing more luck for himself?

Intacto explores these questions, putting forward its own mythology regarding luck, seeing it as a tangible commodity to use ilike a bartering system.  Usually luck is found among the survivors of immense tragedies.  For example, the film starts off with Federico, who survived a horrific earthquake, soon after recruited by a man who understands the fate game, Sam, a casino owner who just happens to be the luckiest man alive.  Federico soon falls out of favor with Sam, and has his power to take luck stripped away from him.  After seven years of bad luck, Federico finally finds an angle, and even though his luck has run out, he can look for others who do have it, and be their mentor.  After a fatal airplane crash kills everyone on board save one man, Tomas, Federico jumps onto the scene to court the young man and use him to amass more luck, and hopefully gain revenge on the one man with the power to take it away.  However, getting there won't be so easy with the cops on Tomas' trail for a bank robbery he committed, as well as others who literally gamble lives away in the ultimate gambling showdown.

The brainchild for this clever Spanish film is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who develops some highly interesting ideas that, while they may not make a whole lot of sense, are quite fascinating as you watch them revealed.  It plays like House of Games as told in the "Twilight Zone," shot mostly in drab areas of the city and country, and usually at night.  The film has a dark and mysterious feel, which lends well to the foreboding atmosphere where stakes are at their highest.

The acting by all involved is quite convincing, and although the subject matter seems too fantastical for most people to swallow, the way the story is told never really breaks the suspension of disbelief.  It's not really played out for fun or laughs, merely an exercise in ideas told in a thriller mold, but for what it tries to do, Intacto does well.

If you like esoteric films with complex construction and puzzle-like elements, such as Pi, The Matrix, and Memento, you'll probably find Intacto to be good head-scratching entertainment.  Just remember it's a work of fiction.  Don't go playing Russian roulette after winning the local raffle.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo