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Fernando Fernán Gómez,
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Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Max von Sydow,
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Burnt Money, is set in Argentina in 1965. This true story follows the tumultuous relationship between two men who became lovers and ultimately ruthless bank robbers in a notoriously famous footnote in the annals of Argentinian crime history. Nene, Angel and Cuervo are bank robbers who flee from Argentina across the border to Uruguay after a large-scale hold-up that turns bloody. Angel is hurt and the three must lay low until Angel recovers. Nene and Angel are known to everyone they know as "the twins" because of their resemblance, but the two are not brothers at all - they are involved in a steamy homosexual relationship. To get back to Argentina, the group must first wait for Fontana, the brains behind the robbery, to arrange for passports. Anxious from hiding, Cuervo decides to break curfew and go party. After Nene and Angel also decide to take off, Nene meets a prostitute named Giselle and Angel ends up getting in a fight. The group is forced to abandon their refuge and Angel and ... Written by
Strand Releasing <www.strandreleasing.com>
Argentina, 1965: Following a violent robbery on an armored car, two gay lovers - rebellious rich kid Nene (Leonardo Sbaraglia) and borderline schizophrenic Ángel (Eduardo Noriega) - are forced to flee with their accomplices to Uruguay, where they take refuge in a decaying apartment building. Denied sexual favors by Ángel due to his worsening mental condition, Nene takes up with a sympathetic prostitute (Leticia Brédice), leading to jealousy, betrayal and tragedy...
Based on true events recounted in a non-fiction novel by Argentinian writer/critic Ricardo Piglia, and directed by former producer Marcelo Piñeyro (THE OFFICIAL STORY), BURNT MONEY is a masterpiece. Photographed with noirish intensity by Alfredo Mayo (HIGH HEELS) and underscored by an ironic soundtrack of lazy jazz and contemporary English/Spanish pop songs, the narrative is driven by powerful emotions which explode at regular intervals in outpourings of explicit sex and violence. The sacred and profane are interlinked in various ways (one extraordinary sequence cross-cuts between an act of worship in a Uruguayan church and an unpleasant encounter between Nene and a frightened youth in a public toilet), and the sweaty atmosphere is broken only by an explosive climax where the main protagonists are forced to take responsibility for their actions. Former TV actor Pablo Echarri ("Chiquititas", "El Signo", etc.) plays a younger, headstrong member of the outlaw gang, blinded by youthful arrogance to the danger in which they have all become enmeshed, while Brédice (NINE QUEENS) plays one of the few significant female characters in this otherwise all-male scenario, a brittle creature who falls in love with the wrong guy, with appalling consequences for everyone around her.
More than anything else, however, BURNT MONEY is a love story, played to perfection by two of the finest young actors of their generation. Spanish heartthrob Noriega forged his career in popular mainstream entries such as THESIS, OPEN YOUR EYES and THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, while Sbaraglia plied his trade alongside Piñeyro in the lower echelons of Argentinian cinema (TANGO FEROZ: LA LEYENDA DE TANGUITO, CABALLOS SALVAJES). Casting these two beautiful, experienced young men as lovers in a violent true-crime drama could not have been more fortuitous: Their devotions are rarely consummated on-screen (all of the aforementioned sex scenes are heterosexual), except for a chaste kiss at the end of the film, and an earlier, erotically-charged sequence in which Nene tends to a wound on Ángel's shoulder and initiates a sexual advance, only to be rebuffed because of Ángel's mental condition. And yet, Noriega and Sbaraglia are ultra-convincing as the macho thugs who would literally die for one another, and they invest every gesture, every inflection, with genuine romantic chemistry. These guys simply burn up the screen! Look out for the devastating sequence in which Nene 'confesses' to Brédice about his relationship with Ángel, where he describes their mutual affection with heartbreaking emotional candor.
To his credit, Piñeyro refuses to soft-pedal the dissolute nature of his central characters. But for all its dramatic fireworks and sexual tension, BURNT MONEY is a tale of steadfast devotion, as touching and beautiful as any this reviewer has ever seen. They may be thieves and murderers, but when Nene looks into Ángel's eyes, you know instinctively that their love transcends life and death, and is destined to last an eternity. Not just a great gay film, BURNT MONEY is also a terrific love story, a heartstopping thriller, and an outstanding example of popular Spanish entertainment.
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