In February of last year I attempted to introduce to DVDTALK's readers Miguel Bardem's latest film Incautos a.k.a Swindled which Spanish critics seemed to enjoy quite a bit. With a solid cast including Pedro Almodovar's all time favorite Victoria Abril (Kika), Ernesto Alterio (Los Anos Barbaros), Argentinean veteran Federico Luppi (Los Herederos), and Gilbert Melki (Lucas Belvaux's Trilogy) among others Incautos impressed me so much that I even wrote a small article hoping that this relatively recent Spanish film will manage to gather some serious momentum between foreign film aficionados in North America. Unfortunately the response was not too enthusiastic and the excitement which I was hoping to spur never materialized. I thought it was a great shame that aside from a small note in Variety the media did not cover it either since in my opinion Incautos is amongst one of the best con films to come out of Spain in a long, long time.
Somewhat reminiscent of Stephen Frears's highly regarded The Grifters (1990) Incautos follows the story of young con-artist Ernesto (Ernesto Alterio) who befriends 70-something old con-icon Manco (Manuel Alexandre) who gradually introduces him to the ins and outs of the game. Manco also introduces Ernersto to the enigmatic Federico (Federico Luppi), a legend and true connoisseur, with an enormous experience in the business of scamming. Federico has decided to set-up one final sting, which he believes is the coveted golden goose: the job con-artists seek before they retire in peace.
Set in a world of spectacular Spanish villas, sparkling Ferraris, and seductive women Incautos is a film that offers an enormously entertaining plot with never-ending twists that will certainly make your head spinning. Style, style, and even more style is what this elegant con-flick offers backed up with some serious acting from what appears to be the crème de la crème of Spanish cinema. The true surprise in Incautos however is the excellent balance which Miguel Bardem (yes, he is related to the famous Bardem family) has managed to achieve providing the perfect pacing for a film which pulls too many strings at the same time.
Unlike many of the con/heist productions I have seen in recent years Incautos certainly delivers right down to the smallest detail. I read a few, in my humble opinion unjustifiably harsh, articles claiming that Miguel Bardem's film has too many plot holes but I could not spot any that actually detracted from what I consider to be an outstanding production. In fact, looking back at Fabian Bielinsky's Nueve Reinas a.k.a Nine Queens (2000), another outstanding Spanish-language production, and comparing it to Bardem's latest I have to admit that Incautos impressed me much more with its witty twists, breathtaking cinematography, and superb acting.
Furthermore, it is not a surprise that the always-provocative Victoria Abril virtually steals the show from the rest of the cast in Incautos. Her part most definitely provides that exotic flavor which Almodovar discovered years ago when he chose the Spanish beauty for his edgy iAtame! a.k.a Tie Me Up Tie Me Down (1990). Victoria Abril is still utterly seductive and assisted gracefully by Federico Luppi her character is simply outstanding. I urge you to pay very close attention to her romantic scene with the old scoundrel Federico…words can not describe what a woman confident in her sex-appeal can achieve!
There is certainly nothing new that Incautos offers its audiences. We've seen plenty of films where the game of cat and mouse evolves into a more serious play of skill versus emotions. With Miguel Bardem's Incautos however we are offered a great production which manages to mix an equal dose of style with an equal dose of substance where the viewer is kept guessing literally until the very last scene. Indeed, this is one sleek and unreservedly stylish thriller which most certainly accomplishes what it sets out to achieve.
In 2004 Incautos was nominated for four Goya Awards- Best Editing (Ivan Aledo), Best Original Song ("Corre" by Bebe Rebolledo), and Best Sound (Pierre Lorain, Polo Aledo, Jaime Fernandez). The film was also nominated for the Golden Biznaga Award at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival (Best Director- Miguel Bardem).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Incautos looks gorgeous…yet I am quite disappointed! Colors are great, contrast is spectacular, and the print provided for this R1 release appears in excellent condition yet once again TLA Releasing have chosen to rely on a secondary source, a PAL master as it appears, and the result is a mild "ghosting" which you are likely to experience if watching this film on a progressive set-up. It is worth pointing out that even the always noticeable edge-enhancement is kept to a minimum and I nearly stopped thinking about it while I was reviewing this disc. It is a shame really as this could have been a stunningly looking DVD which by all means looks nearly identical to the Spanish R2 disc.
I certainly hope that the folks over at TLA Releasing read our reviews and will take the necessary steps towards (finally) correcting their transfers ("flagging" is also a problem for some of their earlier catalog releases) as they have all the right components to be the leading company on the US market when it comes to contemporary Foreign Cinema. In other reviews that I have written for their releases I noted how much I admire their great selection of films, the stylish white cases they provide for their DVDs, the great designs and cover works, BUT they always fall short of delivering the complete package we film lovers expect. So, what would it take for TLA Releasing to begin providing us with proper transfers of your great films and abandon the dreaded PAL-NTSC ports???
How Does the DVD Sound?
With a spectacular Spanish DTS track and a less elaborate 2.0 mix Incautos sounds great!! Deep and impressive bass is complimented with the subtle ambience of the rears which are often interrupted by a crisp and clear dialog. Certainly this is one great sounding DVD release.
Aside from the original theatrical trailer for Incautos and a few extra trailers for other upcoming TLA Releasing releases there is nothing else to be found on this DVD.
Just as I adore Ariadna Gil I am always willing to watch Victoria Abril. In Miguel Bardem's stylish and fast-paced latest thriller Abril and Co. certainly leave very little room for criticism with their excellent performances. What a ride!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!