Dir. Roberto Santiago.Sp. 2005. 101mins.
A very local comedy withstrong remake potential, The Longest Penalty In The World has provedthis year's Spanish box office hit to date taking more than $6.5m.
Although perhaps tooanchored in Madrid to travel past Spanish-language territories, that'sconversely Penalty's greatest strength - this could be remade more thanonce and score every time.
Starring the wildly-popularTejero, Penalty's characters and locales translate to any city withthird-rate soccer leagues and devoted fans, and its script problems and lengthyrunning time could be worked on in the process. While flawed, the basicframework for a hit - that in the right hands has the potential for Bend ItLike Beckham-level success - is there.
Set in Madrid's workingclass Carabanchel neighbourhood, Penalty kicks off in the final minutesof a decisive regional third-division match between local under-dogs PolarEstrella and their heavily fancied opponents. From the local newsagent whoprovides a running commentary while keeping an eye on a player's baby, it isclear that this is about as far away from Real Madrid as you can get whilestill being in the same city.
The set-up is fast. Polar'shunky goalie is knocked out of the action and substituted by local loserFernando (Tejero), a beer-guzzling, chain-smoking layabout with a sharp-tonguedsister (Botto), who minds the bar with barrio beauty Cecilia (Larralde). Thepenalty given by the duplicitous referee will decide the outcome of the matchand whether Polar will move up to division two, but the angry crowd stages apitch invasion before the shot can be taken.
Now supermarketshelf-stacker Fernando has a week to shape up and save the day for Polar beforethe shot is taken again (Polar Estrella is the local store and centre of allthe action).
Canny Fernando, however,tries to use the situation to his advantage - by claiming a bonus from thesupermarket's owner (also the team boss) and blackmailing the coach intogetting a date with his daughter (none other than Cecilia).
Santiago, following on from2001's Hombres Felices, proves he has a firm grasp on what workscommercially while filling Penalty with a league of local characters,some of who could have been edited - either out or down - to save the film fromdragging before its long-awaited denouement.
The film's format also doesnot justify a 101-minute running time, and the characters - including Tejero -tend to flail around, filling time.
But, Botto, as his sister,is a standout. And, most impressively, when it gets to the big day itself,Santiago still has some aces up his sleeve, ensuring that Penalty'sclimax is far from being a letdown.
Prod cos: Tornasol Films, Ensueno Films
Int'l sales: Latido
Sp dist: Alta Films
Exec prods: Mariala Besuievsky,Juan Carlos Caro
Prods: Gerardo Herrero, TedyVillalba, Mariela Besuivsky
Scr: Roberto Santiago based onthe story by Osvaldo Soriano
Cine: Juan Antonio Castano
Ed: Fernando Pardo
Music: Lucio Godoy
Main cast: Fernando Tejero, MariaBotto, Marta Larralde, Carlos Kaniowsky, Javier Gutierrez, Enrique Villen