HEROIC LOSERS

★★★

ENJOYABLE WORKING-CLASS HEIST HIJINKS FROM ARGENTINA

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
6th June 2021

From an audience perspective, the classic heist movie provides a reassuring fantasy, some blatant wish fulfilment and one cracker of a pivotal set piece - the kind where you can often hear a pin drop, or a bead of sweat drip from Tom Cruise's brow in 'Mission: Impossible', say. Jules Dassin's 'Rififi' has a legendary example - nearly half an hour, with zero dialogue or music, as French jewel thieves creep in to crack the security. Jean-Pierre Melville's magnificent 'Le Cercle Rouge' even trumps it.

Based on Eduardo Sacheri's novel, 'La Noche de la Usina' ('The Night of the Heroic Losers'), Sebastián Borensztein's film follows a group of working-class neighbours in the small town of Villa Alsina, who put together 158,653 pesos to convert an old granary into an agricultural cooperative, La Metodica. Led by former soccer player Fermin (Ricardo Darin, 'Everybody Knows', who also narrates), the group includes his friend Antonio Fontana (Luis Brandoni), mechanic Rolo Belaúnde (Daniel Aráoz), self-employed fix-it brothers Eladio and José Gómez (Alejandro Gigena and Guillermo Jacubowicz), unemployed riparian Medina (Carlos Belloso) and Carmén Lorgio (Rita Cortese), the town's shipping company's owner. It's during these scenes that the audience gets a sense of this tightly-knit community, the roster of colourful characters, and the ornery charisma of its ensemble.

'HEROIC LOSERS' TRAILER

Alas, Argentina is on the verge of a major economic downturn. A sleazy lawyer, Fortunato Manzi (Andres Parra), and a corrupt bank executive, Alvarado (Luciano Cazaux), swindle the money from the group during the infamous "corralitos" of 2001. Corralito was the informal name for the economic measures taken in Argentina by Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo in order to stop Argentines from transforming pesos to dollars and withdrawing them from the banks in large amounts. The corralito almost completely froze bank accounts and forbade withdrawals from U.S. dollar-denominated accounts, allowing unscrupulous guys like Manzi and Alvarado to pull a few shady ones.

One year later, the pack of underdogs reunites and devises a plan to retrieve their stolen money. Borensztein and co-writer Sacheri's film works off an absolutely platinum-plated heist movie structure, and the great thing about such a solid skeleton is it gives them a great platform to entertain while knowing that however far off base the story goes, it'll be there to keep things moving in the right direction.

Borensztein and co-writer Sacheri's film works off an absolutely platinum-plated heist movie structure, and the great thing about such a solid skeleton is it gives them a great platform to entertain while knowing that however far off base the story goes, it'll be there to keep things moving in the right direction.

'Heroic Losers' isn't as slickly-filmed as Steven Soderbergh's 'Ocean's 11' and is less progressive than Bart Layton's 'American Animals'. While it isn't flashy or a reinvention of the genre, it isn't as stodgy as James Marsh's 'King of Thieves', either - there's a playful sensibility at work here that is missing in a lot of recent films of its ilk. It's more along the lines of other comedic blue-collar heist flicks like Alan Taylor's 'Palookaville', Woody Allen's 'Small Time Crooks' and the Russo Brothers' 'Welcome to Collinwood' - working-class oddballs fighting back, in a bumbling manner, against privileged elites. In this sense, it might be viewed as natural continuation of some of the hot button themes raised by Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite'.

The genre trappings of the heist movie - plot twists, backstabbing, funny one-liners, that one big set piece - will never go out of style. There's a joy in the familiarity of it all. Even if you aren't across the economic history of Argentina, there's good chance you'll still enjoy 'Heroic Losers'.

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