Dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Spain. 108mins.
Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has crafted an accomplished feature debut with Intact (Intacto), a thriller characterised by slick visuals and an imaginative storyline. The film has done well, although not spectacularly, in its home market, earning $1.17m (pts218.6m) in its first five weeks. International prospects, which should be strong, may be boosted in some territories by the presence of Max Von Sydow. Like Alejandro Amenabar's similarly esoteric Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos) before it, recently remade in the US as Vanilla Sky, Intact is ripe material for a remake. Lions Gate Films acquired worldwide rights to the film at the Sundance Film Festival, where Intact had its international debut in the World Cinema sidebar.
Intact is set in a clandestine netherworld where eccentric characters test their luck in a series of high-risk games of chance. Max Von Sydow, plays Sam, a haunted Holocaust survivor and sadistic, yet distinguished, gaming man considered the godfather of luck. Federico (a characteristically great Poncela) is the protege who flees Sam's double-edged protection with the goal of returning one day and beating the old man at his own life-threatening game. When Frederico discovers Tomas, (an underused Sbaraglia) he thinks he has found a match for Sam, but his mission to bring the two together is hindered by Sara (excellent newcomer Lopez). A dogged police investigator, Sara's own demons - she survived a car crash which killed her husband and child - compel her to venture even further into the netherworld.
In his quest to bring Tomas up against Sam, Federico progressively ups the stakes. Fresnadillo works hard to construct the darkness of this world, shooting largely at night, broaching murky themes and introducing some seriously screwed-up characters.
On a technical level, the director (whose 1996 short film Link was nominated for an Oscar) and his team succeed with high marks: glossy visual aesthetics and musical score complement the polished and innovative script, creating an atmosphere of suspense and memorable images.
However, they may have done too slick a job in creating a cold and hermetic world which does not invite the audience in, a world where human contact is kept to a minimum and human lives - one's own and others' - are wagered like poker chips. The complicated storyline, which continually layers on new puzzle pieces, may even confuse some: a remake could potentially throw out a couple of additional clues earlier on. It could also fill out the character of Tomas, here depicted as slightly vapid and sheepish, traits which do not mesh with his alleged criminal history, and craft him into a more sympathetic survivor.
Prod cos: Sogepaq/Sogecine
Sp dist: Warner Sogefilms
Intl sales: tbc
Prods: Fernando Bovaira, Enrique Lopez-Lavigne
Scr: Fresnadillo, Andres Koppel
Cinematography: Xavier Jimenez
Ed: Nacho Ruiz Capillas
Music: Lucio Godoy
Main cast: Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Monica Lopez, Antonio Dechent, Max Von Sydow.