Rudo y Cursi

Dir: Carlos Cuarón
Star: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Guillermo Francella, Jessica Mas

Two brothers, goalkeeper Beto (Luna) and striker Tato (Bernal) - nicknamed Rudo and Cursi, or rough and corny, for good reason - are plucked from obscurity on a rural dirt field by agent Batuta (Francella), who meets them by chance after his car gets a flat. He can only pick one, and a penalty shootout decides that it's Tato, though he is not quite equipped for life in Mexico City. Despite his skills, Tato's real dream is to be a singer, a career for which he is singularly unfitted - to prove the point, there is an amazingly-awful rendition of Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me in norteño style, which is about as good as most footballer songs (Gazza's Fog on the Tyne, anyone?). After sitting on the bench forever, he gets his chance and takes full advantage, becoming a star, getting a TV host girlfriend (Mas), etc. He didn't forget his brother, and Beto follows to the big time. However, his weakness is gambling, and he finds himself deep in debt: Batuta suggests the only way out is for Beto to bet on the upcoming big match, and then throw the game. Oh, and it happens to be again his brother's team: Tato's career is now also teetering on the edge of disaster, with neither sibling knowing of the other's problems.

This is an interesting twist on the usual sports movie, in several ways, not least the possibility - very subtly hinted at - that the whole thing has been planned from the beginning by Batuta. But what really makes the film work are the two central characters. Bernal and Luna are close friends off-screen, and have worked together before, most notably on Y tu mamá también (written by the director here, and his better-known brother Alfonso), and it shows. Their relationship here feels like that of two brothers. There's also no shortage of social subtext, contrasting the grinding poverty of their country life, with the jet-set glamour they find in the big city - even if it doesn't necessarily make them any happier. However, this is deliberately kept light, with Batuta's tongue-in-cheek voiceover adding a mock-philosophical tone to proceedings. If not the sort of the film that will particularly stick in the brain, it's an engaging and entertaining way to spend 103 minutes.

[March 2010]

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