Review: Heroic Losers
by Alfonso Rivera
- The Daríns are co-producing and starring in the adaptation of Eduardo Sacheri’s Argentine novel La noche de la Usina, directed by Sebastián Borensztein with mixed results
Since its premiere in Argentina in mid-August this year, Heroic Losers [+see also:
film profile], directed by Sebastián Borensztein, has been seen by upwards of one million viewers, claiming the top spot on the country’s podium of highest grossing films of 2019. A cast composed of local stars (led by the charismatic Ricardo Darín and his son Chino Darín, who are also co-producing the picture) combined with the prior success of the novel on which the film is based (La noche de la Usina by Eduardo Sacheri) - a work which dared to adopt a more light-hearted approach towards the tough topic of the "corralito": economic measures which plunged the country into a severe crisis at the beginning of the 21st century and have caused ongoing highs and lows in political, social and economic spheres – have no doubt played a significant role in Heroic Losers’ box office triumph. The film has now been presented as a Special Screening event at the 67th San Sebastián Film Festival.
The story focuses on the giles mentioned in the original Spanish-language title of the film (La odisea de los giles), a local word explained at the beginning of the picture, referring to "good people"; that is, innocent people without malice or ulterior motives who trust almost blindly in those around them. Here, a group of giles decide to team up in order to get an old rural factory back up and running, raising funds as part of a co-operative project (which we would now call crowdfunding) until, one day, they find their money blocked by the "corralito" - governmental measures which go so far as to prevent customers free access to their own cash.
So begins a skirmish full of humour, but also full of twists and turns which don’t always manage to amuse or surprise the audience (and which don’t come close to the standards of the British, Ealing studios comedies whose spirit it so tries to emulate). The film might denounce the corruption and disdain which the country’s humble and honest citizens are only too used to suffering as a result of the villains charged with governing and heading up the banks, however, its lack of nerve and a few instances of ineffective humour suck the lifeblood out of this critical epic, which might otherwise have reached the levels of vitriol displayed in the Spanish-Argentine co-production which likewise sought to vent its anger against a rotten system: Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales [+see also:
It’s a genuine shame, because this film boasts real ambience (at times reminiscent of the westerns put forward by the Coen brothers, for example), skilled actors (who have to contend with exaggerated caricature) and many brilliant lines, such as that delivered by one of his losing characters: "Sons of bitches don’t see themselves as sons of bitches ".
This revanchist film, with its intricate plot and comic tone, whose pace slows as the story progresses, could have gone much further when it came to passing judgment – artistically and with grace, and, therefore, entertainingly – on those who play with others’ illusions without any sense of guilt. But instead, it comes to an end (after a duration of 115 minutes) struggling, spineless and tired.
Heroic Losers is produced by the Argentine groups K&S Films and Kenya Films (owned by the Daríns, together with Federico Posternak) and by the Spanish firm Mod Producciones, in association with Warner, RTVE and Movistar+. Alfa Pictures are heading up distribution in Spain, where the film will be released on 29 November, while sales are in the hands of Catalan agency Film Factory Entertainment.
(Translated from Spanish)
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