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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Any given slumdog

A conventional rags-to-riches plot hobbles pedigreed drama

Posted on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 4:00 AM

**
Rudo Y Cursi
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Rated: R
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Jessica Mas, Ivan Esquivel, Guillermo Francella
Director: Carlos Cuaron
WorkNameSort: Rudo Y Cursi
Our Rating: 2.00

There is a point, midway through the new Spanish-language sibling rivalry drama Rudo y Cursi, at which both characters ' two brothers newly minted as the future of Mexican fútbol ' seem to be granted a fanatical amount of leeway. Both have worked their way, via talent and luck, from playing in a grass lot in Jalisco to being national soccer stars on opposing teams. They blow their newfound money on typical gaudy luxuries like a mansion and a Hummer for a model girlfriend. At the same time, their inner brats reveal themselves to all around them; one develops a gambling habit, the other indulges his Beckham-like stud status by pursuing an embarrassing music career. All the while, the public still loves them because, in the end, they can deliver on the field â?¦ for now, at least.

I suspect the movie-going public and critics alike will grant similar flexibility to the artists involved in making Rudo y Cursi. It reunites the excellent duo of actors from 2001's Y tu Mamá También- ' Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna ' as the two athlete brothers; and the writer-director, Carlos Cuarón, is the brother of También director Alfonso Cuarón, who produced Rudo y Cursi with Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth). In terms of Mexican cinema, Rudo y Cursi is propped up by the freaking Justice League.

It's no surprise, then, that when you leave the theater after Rudo y Cursi, your thoughts swirling with discontent and heretical words like 'hack jobâ?� and 'cliché,â?� you may experience a tinge of guilt. But alas, you wouldn't be wrong.

From the moment we meet Bernal's suave Tato and Luna's boorish Beto as they're 'discoveredâ?� by a snake of a talent scout who happens to stumble across their community soccer game, the film toys with our trust; not like a sophisticated con man, but more like a brainless mouse pawing a ball of yarn. (In an incomprehensible camera choice by Cuarón, we never see them play more than a second of actual soccer.) Beto has a young family to take care of and Tato an abusive new father figure to escape from, so the stakes are high for their success. The film leaves their familial drama behind as coldly as the brothers do, explaining that their sister hooked up with a drug dealer who is taking care of the family.

Predictably, the brothers' vices lead to their respective downfalls, and anyone familiar with cautionary tales of greed and excess can fill in the remaining blanks.

The plot boils down to a nationally televised championship game between the opposing teams on which the brothers are somehow still the star players. Again, we see nothing of the action on the field, but instead are treated to a ham-handed denouement involving brutal bookies and an ending that involves an unseen criminal swooping in to save the day. I'm not sure which is more offensive: That Cuarón believes these scumbag brothers are heroes, or that the biggest scumbag in the film can be a hero to all.

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