[Film Review] Burnt Money (2000)

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English Title: Burnt Money
Original Title: Plata quemada
Year: 2000
Country: Argentina, Spain, Uruguay
Language: Spanish
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
Director/Writer: Marcelo Piñeyro
based on the novel of Ricardo Piglia
Music: Osvaldo Montes
Cinematography: Alfredo Mayo
Leonardo Sbaraglia
Eduardo Noriega
Pablo Echarri
Leticia Brédice
Héctor Alterio
Ricardo Bartis
Dolores Fonzi
Carlos Roffé
Luis Ziembrowski
Daniel Valenzuela
Rating: 7.3/10

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Spoiler alert! It is execrably unpardonable that when a film casts two Latin Adonis like Leonardo Sbaraglia and Eduardo Noreiga to play lovers and completely passes over their carnal engagement, what makes it more retrograde is that the only explicit sex scenes are heterosexual. Ok, it is a film made in the turn of 21st century and depicting a true story taking place in the mid-60s in Buenos Aires, maybe retrograde it what it should be in retrospect.

El Nene (Sbaraglia) and Angel (Noriega) are two small-time criminals earn the sobriquet “the twins” because they are inseparable (both in public and in private domains), after embroiled into a roadside heist of an armored truck which goes awry, they snatch the haul but Angel is wounded, consequentially the gang of four, including the boss Fontana (Bartis) and the driver Cuervo (Echarri, a boisterous macho type), needs to lie low and subsequently abscond to the neighboring Uruguay, but due to a series of slip-ups, such as the whippersnapper Cuervo fatuously spills the beans of their escape plan to his girlfriend Vivi (Fonzi), the police starts to breathe down their neck and a presentiment of misfortune looms large.

The relationship between El Nene and Angel is in severe strains even before the hold-up, and director Marcelo Piñeyro is particularly evasive in the reason behind, all it seems is that Angel is perpetually tormented by auditory hallucination, which can be construed as the self-denial of his sexual orientation induced by religion or other unspecific grounds, and he bluntly abnegates any physical intimacy with El Nene, which in turn torments the latter in their extremely restive hiding-out days, partially prompts El Nene to seek refuge in a prostitute Giselle (Brédice), it is hard not to second-guess the incentive behind the reason of parachute a woman into a pair of gay men’s impasse at that stage, while the film never ceases from tantalizing its chief demography through the permeating sexual tension, it is a compromising but not improbable gesture to try cajoling a certain squadron of heterosexual males to buy the tickets, but ultimately this tack recoils with a whiff of misogyny and female objectification as libidinous and vindictive.

Gratefully, the film is redeemed by its final act, the money shot where El Nene, Angel and Cuervo are under siege and boxed inside a tiny apartment fighting to their perdition, a heartening last rebellion to the authority, the unfair world rekindles and consummates El Nene and Angel’s unalloyed passion, and we are overtaken by the impact of a powerful tragedy, heroic, gratifying and poignant, all rushing out simultaneously.

The dyad of Sbaraglia and Noreiga is immaculate in their tendresse-emoting, agony-inflicting two-hander, both spectacularly turn heads in spite of the narrative’s noticeable elisions and occasional editing hiccups, the former is both physically and mentally stripped down to the full while the latter has a more abstract demon to battle with of his own accord. The film is very close to becoming a landmark in the queer cinema, for all its emotional honesty and brimming erotic pull, but one must sit back and take stock with a more disinterested eye, BURNT MONEY benefits from a searing backstory and a sizzling central-duo, but its craftsmanship plain errs on the side of disjunction and maladroitness.

referential points: Pedro Almodóvar’s LAW OF DESIRE (1987, 7.1/10); Marco Berger’s PLAN B (2009, 6.4/10).

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