Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “Intacto” is being Englished as “Intact,” but “Untouched” would probably be a more accurate and meaningful translation. It’s a very stylish but ultimately extremely silly tale, in the fashion of recent mysterious and enigmatic Spanish outings like “Open Your Eyes” and “Sex and Lucia,” about luck and destiny. The premise of the piece, which the director penned with Andres Koppel, is that good fortune is not only something associated with certain individuals, but that it can in fact be “stolen” from them by others; and that, furthermore, those who possess it have contests with one another to find which of them has the greater gift–games played at very high stakes.
We’re introduced to this peculiar notion in connection with a grave, older man named Samuel (Max Von Sydow, playing the part with all the weight his age and experience naturally bestow on him). Samuel lives in the sterile catacombs connected with a casino on an island off the Spanish coast, where he apparently has something to do with controlling the establishment’s winnings and losses (the script isn’t terribly clear on this point). But he has a falling-out with a protégé named Federico (Eusebio Poncela), from whom he takes his good luck and whom he then exiles to the larger world. Focused on revenge, Federico seeks out another lucky soul whom he can prep for a showdown with Sam, and after years of searching decides on Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a bank robber who’s been captured by the cops only after he’s miraculously survived a catastrophic plane crash (shakes of “Unbreakable” may pass through the viewer’s memory here). Federico springs him from hospital confinement and leads him to a series of encounters with a bullfighter named Alejandro (Antonio Dechent) and Sara (Monica :Lopez), a policewoman, both of whom apparently also have the gift, before a rather rambunctious, imperfectly staged denouement in Samuel’s lair.
Fresnadillo plays all of this out with considerable technical skill–the compositions in “Intacto” are frequently striking (Xavier Jimenez’s cinematography is excellent), and the suggestions of violence and loss of power are often subtly unsettling. (A sequence in which blindfolded competitors run through a dense forest to determine which will be the last to collide with a tree has a good mixture of suspense and excitement.) But while the material that’s confined to Federico, Tomas and Alejandro has a certain engaging spookiness, other parts of the picture are less satisfactory. The elements centering on Sara are never successfully integrated into the plot, and her involvement at the close takes the plot to the point of absurdity. Even worse is the background matter on Samuel. The old man, it turns out, is a survivor of the Holocaust, where his luck was, it seems, first exhibited in a particularly hideous way; and his grimness and sense of fatalism derive from the experience. Simply put, using a genocidal part of history as an easy referent in what amounts to a potboiler thriller is more than a bit tasteless, even if Von Sydow’s solemnity nearly makes it work in dramatic terms. Otherwise the performances are mostly workmanlike, though Sbaraglia shows the charisma that could lead to bigger things.
“Intacto” is a slick piece of nonsense but nothing more, and its Holocaust references make it slightly unpleasant as well. Ultimately it’s the sort of picture that’s best described as promising, but not quite there yet.