Ladrones (2015) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some violence, language and suggestive material
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Fernando Colunga, Eduardo Yanez, Jessica Lindsey, Frank Perozo, Nashla Bogaert, Oscar Torre, Evelyna Rodriguez, Miguel Varoni, Cristina Rodlo, Vadhir Derbez, Carmen Beat, Jon Molenio
Director: Joe Menendez
Screenplay: Jon Molenio
Review published October 10, 2015
Ladrones (English translation: Thieves) follows the 2007 surprise Spanish-language hit in the U.S., Ladron que Roba a Ladron, which had been an Oceans Eleven-ish heist film about thieves who steal from a millionaire scam artist who has been bilking poor Mexican immigrants from what little money they have for his bogus miracle cures. This film finds our protagonists lauded as contemporary Robin Hoods, who are beseeched by people who have been scammed to come help them out of their predicaments.
Spanish-language TV star Fernando Colunga (Love Rules, A Woman of Steel) returns as Alejandro, who ends up taking on one such cause, but with his old partner Emilio now working for the FBI and unable to join him, he hooks up with Santiago (Yanez, Wild Things) to be his new partner in crimes against criminals. Their mark is against a woman named Miranda Kilroy (Lindsey, Instructions Not Included), whose family has spend over 150 years being the primary landowners in a small Texas settlement whose rights were stolen away by one of her ancestors, who was willing for the land grants that claim the property under the feet of the ranchers who were there when the land was part of Mexico because they couldn't provide proof that they owned the land.
The Mexican-American families who rightfully own the land are being bilked by greedy entrepreneur Miranda Kilroy, who has stolen the land grants after a gardener discovers the documents hidden by her great ancestor showing them and other families in the area to be the rightful owners. Miranda wants to evict the Hispanic families and raze their homes to build a large commercial complex that includes an opera house that will allow her to sing in it every night she chooses. It's up to Alejandro, Santiago, and a ragtag group of local folk -- a chemist, a computer hacker, a spiritualist, an actor, a storyteller, some knock-out beauties (every con man wants to use a distraction, after all), and a young lad who claims to be impervious to pain -- to get those land grants back and put an end to the Kilroy family legacy that has kept so many other families down.
Just as with the first entry, outside of a bit of adult humor here and there, this sequel feels very much like a made-for-TV endeavor, which won't be a huge surprise given that director Menendez, as well as most of the movie's stars, have resumes that mostly list experience derived from Spanish-language TV. Some fans of the first film may be disappointed that Miguel Varoni (Mi Abuelo Mi Papa y Yo), one of the leads of the first effort, is given not much more than a few small scenes, probably due to conflicts with other projects. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that his scenes were filmed in just a day or two. However, TV star Eduardo Yanez makes for a pleasant substitute, and provides a nice comedic contrast to the more hunky Colunga.
What's fundamentally missing from Ladrones that its predecessor had is the moments of satire on not only Mexican television, but also how Latino immigrants are largely viewed, if not disregarded, by large swaths of the American populace. The closest the film gets is a small segment that knocks Latino TV's use of super-hot women to be the on-air "meteorologists". Whereas the first film had been shot in Los Angeles, Ladrones was filmed entirely in the Dominican Republic, which will likely explain the lack of authenticity in jabs that rely on the feel and the flavor of the Latino community as it exists in the United States.
Then there's the problem of the entire movie not making any sense from a plot standpoint. I'm no expert on land contracts, but the film seems to suggest that proof of land ownership is whomever has physical possession of the piece of paper for a specific parcel of land, not the name of the person written on it. If Miranda Kilroy were to be in possession of such land grants wouldn't it be in her best interests to destroy them, rather than hide them in her high-rise hotel suite behind a framed picture that zaps anyone who comes near its force field (which is a dead giveaway that there must be something valuable behind it).
And one wonders, if Miranda Kilroy were of sufficient talent as an opera singer that she can fill up a large opera house venue night after night, why she doesn't have a career doing that anyway. And if she isn't, why would she think it a great idea to perform to a nearly empty house? Further, just where is the large hotel staff that would be required to run this major hotel Kilroy owns? There's only one security guard and a few bodyguards shown in a time of crisis. And if any of you can explain just what the purpose of the hurricane Inez phony weather report feed is, please write to me, because, other than to show a woman in a skin-tight dress, I'm at a loss as to how this aspect plays into the overall plans to get a hold of the land grants.
It's light, and mostly innocuous, but Ladrones is also leaden, uninspired, and, for lengthy periods of time, not funny enough to merit 98 minutes of most viewers' attentions. As such, it really has little business being given a theatrical release, as it wouldn't even be particularly good just taken as a made-for-TV effort. Ladrones is about thieves who steal from other thieves, but the most precious commodity that is stolen is our time for this effort that struggles to hock its paltry goods to anyone not a blindly devoted fan of its charismatic telenovela stars.
©2015 Vince Leo