STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $14.98
RUNNING TIME: 109 Minutes
• Commentary w/ director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
• Behind-the-scenes featurette
Promotional materials

The Pitch

meets that scene from The
Deer Hunter

The Humans

Max von
Sydow, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Monica Lopez.

The Nutshell

Luck is
no lady; it’s a currency! Possibly, therefore, a whore, but that’s beside the
point. There are people walking the world who can steal your luck, thieves of
the subtlest sort. If they touch you, or take your picture, they absorb some of
that ephemeral quality which keeps you from being alone on Friday night with
only day-old pizza to eat.

The most
skillful and gifted of these luck vampires engage in the ultimate games of
chance, facing off in dangerous contests of fortune. When a simple bank robber
(Sbaraglia) discovers that he possesses the gift, he becomes entwined in the
dangerous world of gambling with his luck at stake, at first for the thrill,
then for the money, and finally for the lives of himself and the only woman he

"Someone horked some depleted boogeranium onto your head."

The Lowdown

If the
above summary didn’t sell it for you, let me make it plain: Intacto
is speculative fiction. It’s a fantasy story. It wouldn’t be out of place as a
novella in Analog. Despite what the blurb on the case’s back might lead you to
believe, it has very little in common with other pictures about underground
gambling rings, or even aboveground ones. No Rounders here; this is
concrete, real-world fantasy, and it’s an absolute pleasure from beginning to

Like most
speculative fiction, the story has a twin concern of evolving characters while
exploring some philosophy. It’s the "love of knowledge" brand of
philosophy, though, not the "love of hearing one’s own voice"
variety. The writers are in pursuit of the images, assumptions, and examples of
luck. It doesn’t make for a plot of satisfying resolution, because, as with
most topics that lack empirical data, ruminations, parallels, and context are
the items of the day. Imagine a chaotic mess of threads, each representing a
different approach to the consideration of luck; mostly, you see just colors
laid atop each other. But in one corner, the threads have been woven into a
recognizable design, before trailing back off into the nest of knots and
tangles. Intacto is that unlikely point of reference.

No thanks. I’ve already got a definite article.

course, in speculative fiction like this the writer has to hope that his topic
features enough content to warrant the devotion of a couple hours of a viewer’s
time. There’s not actually that much to say about luck, in an abstract sense. It’s
a word that exists in order to describe events that, subjectively, kick ass. So,
without a set of characters to impress their subjectivity on you, it’d all be a
lot of pointless wankery (as opposed to pointed
wankery, which is my favorite kind).

Sbaraglia’s bank thief functions as the film’s central weight, he is supported
more than adequately by the woven stories of two others. Federico (Poncela)
plays a man desperate to regain his own luck, which was stolen from him by Max
Von Sydow’s luckiest Jew in the world. Federico’s tenacity, pursuing a thing
which cannot be measured, creates an emotional tug toward believing that just
because something can’t be quantified doesn’t mean its loss won’t be felt. Monica
Lopez plays a cop on the hunt for Sbaraglia, whose life contains some
unfortunate parallels to the young protagonist. Instead of going plain as day
with the comparisons, all Twain-like, the similarities between Lopez and
Sbaraglia work as constant reminders of how luck can change lives, or how
chance can ruin them.

If all
that blather gets you bored, the script leaves plenty of room for a third
consideration: tension. For a film that’s essentially a series of passive games
(letting the luck of the competitors enter the conflict on behalf of the
characters) the pacing and breathless anticipation set deep hooks . It’s
another minor triumph for the filmmakers, leading the audience into a
succession of dark alleys, then making the characters as helpless as
competitors as the audience members are as spectators.

"Hold still, and relax your tongue. I’m going to perform the Von Sydow maneuver."

Though it
provides the easiest point-of-entry for a viewer to describe Intacto
to them as a thriller, the action serves a specific purpose in the philosophy.
It makes the experience of luck visceral, and at the same time reminds the
audience that luck is as unreliable as faith, and can be neither relied upon
nor anticipated.

fiction, as the name implies, is all about asking questions and plotting beyond
the realm of the strictly plausible. With that as rubric, Intacto qualifies as one
of the better speculative fiction stories I’ve experienced in quite some time. "What
if," it asks, "luck were a thing you could almost touch? What if you
could see, with perfect clarity, how your life could have been, had you but
possessed a little more of this hazy currency?" They’re fascinating
questions, and Intacto succeeds because it puts them into the mouths of characters
of effortless depth and interest.

The Package

bonuses are few. A director’s commentary, which you’ll have to throw the
subtitles on for unless you speak Spanish well, with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
maintains an aloofness that never quite seems to touch down as interaction with
an audience. Fresnadillo also preserves much of the mystery of his film’s
story, never stooping to fix the puzzle pieces into place for you.

addition to that, you get a bit of behind-the-scenes footage and promotional

Intacto is an unusual accomplishment, a
melding of the abstract and the concrete with a story and world that deserve
full attention.

8 out of 10