Think of "Ladrón que Roba a Ladrón" as "Ocean's 11" crossed with a very special Univision television movie. It's a heist flick with some seriously gigantic Latin-culture overtones, but it doesn't forget a very important rule for the genre: keep everything well within the reach of fun.
After illegally crossing the US border from Columbia, Emilio (Miguel Varoni) has arrived with a mission. Convincing a ragtag team of day-labor specialists to join him, Emilio looks to plan an elaborate robbery of a notorious "infotainment" mastermind, Valdez (Saul Lisazo), who stores his wealth in his formidable Los Angeles mansion. Building an elaborate scheme with intricate working parts, Emilio's dream is threatened when his fellow criminals fall far below expectations.
"Ladron" isn't so much a homage to the "Ocean" series as much as it is a highly caloric rip-off with 1/10th the budget and starpower. It's a small time Spanish effort that doesn't seem like much to concern yourself with on the outside, but 30 minutes in, you might find yourself falling for these characters and their comedically convoluted plans of mass thievery.
Credit director Joe Menendez and writer JoJo Henrickson, who power their film with an undeniable spark that sprints from scene to scene. In love with heist conventions, the filmmakers layer up the particulars of the crime with excitement, permitting their collection of criminal newcomers their growing pains, which leads to chuckles littered all over the film.
While the gloss of the heist is given enough attention, the emotional crux of "Ladron" is something completely unexpected. The crime here is one of money, but Emilio's overall intention is one of justice, leading to a series of sharply realized sequences where Menendez gets his audiences lathered up to see Valdez suffer greatly, and he's not afraid to wallow in this one-sided argument. It's good vs. evil on a plain, flat playing field, but this welcoming minimalism only seems to embolden the entertainment factor of the film, instead of simplifying its appeal.
It's the illegal immigrant subplots that lend "Ladron" its most puckered identity. Gently goosing the day-labor situation into the plot, the filmmakers have much on their minds when it comes to the plight of border jumpers. While the film isn't defined by its politics, it does take some digs at those in power. It's an obvious display of sympathy, but then again, this is quite the obvious movie.
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