From an audience perspective, the classic heist movie provides some blatant wish fulfilment and one cracker of a pivotal set piece - the kind where you can often hear a bead of sweat drip from Tom Cruise's nose to the floor 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 blue collar villagers in 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 rough-hewn likability of its ensemble.
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), cons the money from the group during the infamous "corralitos" of 2001. Corralito was the informal name for the economic measures taken in Argentina by the Minister of Economy 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 blocked 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 cash. Borensztein and co-writer Sacheri's film works off a classic heist movie structure, and the great thing about such a solid skeleton is it gives them a lot of leeway to entertain. However far off base the story might ramble, things still keep chugging along in the right direction.
Borensztein and co-writer Sacheri's film works off a classic heist movie structure, and the great thing about such a solid skeleton is it gives them a lot of leeway to entertain. However far off base the story might ramble, things still keep chugging along in the right direction.
'Heroic Losers' isn't as slickly-filmed as Steven Soderbergh's 'Ocean's 11' and isn't an experiment in cinematic form like 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 striking 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 cozy 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'.