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Intacto Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/06/2003

I am really surprised.  I have actually not seen very many foreign language flicks this past year.  When I finally do, it makes me wonder why I don’t see more.  Intacto is one worth seeing.


Samuel Berg (Max von Sydow) is the owner of a profitable but remote casino whose string of luck goes back to being the lone survivor of a concentration camp.  In the basement of his casino, he runs an underground high-stakes game of Russian Roulette that he has never lost.  Those who play, however, not only part with possession of those people they "own," signified by photos of those people, but also their lives (since Russian Roulette isn’t really something you live through.)  Federico (Eusebio Poncela) is Samuel's protégé with the gift of being able to take anyone's luck by just simply touching their hand (a gift that helps the casino when a lucky gambler hits a winning streak.)  When he wants to leave Samuel, however, the master uses the same gift on him, making him powerless.  Years later, Federico is still searching for a recruit that he can use to go up against Samuel in the game of luck.  He figures he has found that person in a bank robber named Tomas Sanz (Leonardo Sbaraglia), the only survivor of a major airline crash.  At the hospital that he is being treated at, the doctors find stolen money taped to his body.  Tomas is put under police custody at a hospital, but Federico is able to get him out.  He gets him involved in several high-stakes luck games (the most memorable one being a blindfolded foot race through a forest where the last one who doesn’t hit a tree wins) and puts him into different elimination round challenges against other lucky challengers.  One of those lucky competitors is Alejandro (Antonio Dechent), a bullfighter who survived many games of luck in bullfighting and in the luck games.  The ultimate winner of these games gets to battle Samuel.  At the same time, Sara (Mónica López), a police detective and lucky survivor of a car crash (that took her husband and daughter) is investigating the people involved with these contests, including Tomas' girlfriend, Ana (Paz Gómez.)  Tomas originally wants to win money, but he eventually realizes that Ana is his biggest prize, and the main reason he wants to go up against Samuel to find out who's the luckiest man alive.


I want to mention the one flaw before I get into the great things about this movie.  Intacto was in English and Spanish with English subtitles, but I almost preferred the Spanish with English subtitles.  The main person who speaks English is Sydow, but he mumbles so much that he could have used subtitles!  Otherwise, having to follow subtitles has never been a problem for me.  I don’t have that “if I wanted to read something at the movie theater I would have brought a book” attitude.  I think I don’t go to more foreign films is because I can only afford to pay to go see so many films a year (the others I get a free screening pass for.)  For that reason, unless it is being made by a filmmaker I am familiar with (like Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer), I can’t be so sure that it might bore me to tears and make me regret that I spent money seeing it.  I know, it’s shallow, but would you spend $6.00-8.00 seeing a movie that you didn’t know anything about?


Intacto is a movie worth spending those hard-earned dollars on.  It is one of those twisty-turny movies that makes you wonder at times what is going on, but pays off in the end.  I have never had a problem with American remakes of foreign films (I loved Vanilla Sky and Insomnia), and this film certainly demands one.  Please get someone other than Sydow to play Samuel though…


If you are itching to try a foreign flick, you won’t go wrong with Intacto.  It keeps you on your seat wondering if Tomas is going to make it to the end, and it also is kind of cool to see this fictional world where people can give luck, take luck, or steal luck.  You never really think of luck as an actual talent, just as something you either have or don’t have.  This movie might make you wonder if there really might be people who have this power.


Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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