I just watched Ladrón que roba a ladrón (To Rob a Thief), a new Lionsgate film coming to DVD this Tuesday. While it has its moments, the movie is a low budget, Spanish-speaking version of Ocean's 11, so much so that the title should be Ladrón que roba una película.
La pelicula is about a group of misfit immigrants in Los Angeles who team up to rob a media mogul of the cash he keeps on his property. ¿Porqué? El hombre sells cheap infomercial products that don't do anything, and has managed to make millions off poor, desperate individuals. Through an elaborate scheme, the thieves plot to steal from the biggest thief of them all - but can they fool the ultimate conman?
The movie isn't bad. Written and directed by Joe Menendez, Ladrón que roba a ladrón has moments of funny humor, other moments of mild suspense, and is generally pretty entertaining. The cast is pretty likable, from the leaders Alejandro y Emilio (Fernando Colunga y Miguel Varoni respectively) to the beautiful but crude Rafaela (Ivonne Montero). Saúl Lisazo also does a good job as the villain. As far as crime plots go, the movie has a more constructed heist than most, but...
Ladrón que roba a ladrón just feels a little too much like Ocean's 11. It's not that the characters or the setting are the same, but the whole heist scenario just looks like something we've seen before. There's the rich, sleazy villain who thinks he's smarter than everyone else (and almost is), the suave hero who allows himself to get beaten up to distract from everything else going on (didn't a certain former Batman do that to deceive Andy Garcia?), the trick to smuggle the money off the property through sleight of hand, and the love interest caught in the middle. Sure, heist films can only vary so much from one another, but it just seems like Menendez thought he'd tear out the plot from Ocean's 11, make a few minor adjustments, tell the cast to speak in español and that would make an original film.
There are a few minor twists in the film, none of which completely work to the degree that Menendez so clearly wanted. When one character is revealed to be more involved in the heist than first thought, Menendez proudly flashes back to earlier scenes to show how he had everything planned from the start. But by the time the twist is revealed, you've already guessed it, and his flashback sequences really aren't worth the effort. The movie isn't stupid - it's just not as clever and unpredictable as Menendez would want you to believe.
Ladrón que roba a ladrón is a relatively entertaining crime caper that should appeal to Spanish-speaking audiences for the sole fact that it's in Spanish, but there's not enough here to appeal to the general moviegoing public.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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