Thursday, January 9, 2003

Stroke of luck

Movie: Intacto

Posted on Thu, Jan 9, 2003 at 4:00 AM

****
Our Rating: 4.00

If you're looking to make a symbolic toast to a new year of indie treasure-hunting, how about treating yourself to a suspense thriller with a brain and a heart? The Spanish "Intacto" posits a shadowy subculture of "lucky" souls who test their gifts in bizarre games of chance. The newest recruit is an air-crash survivor (Leonardo Sbaraglia) brought into the competition by a past participant (Eusebio Poncela) with a score to settle. Together, they work their way upward -- or rather downward -- into the casino-basement lair of the game's mysterious overlord (Max von Sydow, used to far better effect than he was in "Minority Report").

As Sbaraglia's charmed survivor rakes in the spoils of playing, the stakes grow alarmingly high. First-time director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (who also co-wrote the screenplay) stays ahead of the audience, parceling out information one scene at a time and keeping us guessing as to the game's true nature. That information, as revealed in a remarkable monologue by von Sydow, has a moral, mortal component that transcends the usual parameters of the genre.

As viewers at Cannes and Sundance have already learned, "Intacto" is a genuine find. So it's sad but not that surprising to learn that Touchstone Pictures is mulling a loose, stateside remake to be shepherded by a name writer/director. If it's anyone other than Christopher Nolan, game over.

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