An Enigmatic Tale of Four People
This was the official website for the 2002 film, Intacto, an enigmatic tale of four people whose lives are intertwined by destiny are subject to the laws of fate. They discover that luck is something they cannot afford to be without as they gamble with the highest stakes possible in a deadly game from which only one of them will emerge intact.
Content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other outside review sources.
DIRECTOR: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
SCREENWRITERS: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andrés M. Koppel
CAST: Max von Sydow, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Monica Lopez, Guillermo Toledo, Alber Ponte, Antonio Dechent
Lions Gate Films
RUNTIME: 108 min
Intacto - Theatrical Trailer
AUGUST 13, 2003 BY KENNETH COFFELT
2001) dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
This clever Spanish film has an interesting premise. The characters of this film inhabit a subculture in which luck is traded or absorbed or stolen from individual to individual, and ultimately won and pocketed like some “soul”-like cash. In this sense, it functions as some sort of low-tech noirish science fiction, reckoning somewhat of other subcultural-themed films like Fight Club (1999) or Following (1998). The film is slickly produced and is quite entertaining.
Like many science fiction or films with any fantasy element, premises have to be something that even a relative non-believer can buy into. And while this film focuses on some literalization of the concept of luck, perhaps it still remains nearly philosophical enough to follow without analysis. Though, it must be said, under much scrutiny, the premises might start seeming silly or full of holes. The film doesn’t really leave much room for believingthat “luck” doesn’t exist and that the characters are potentially acting under some superstitious delusion. Even in more conventional concepts of “luck” that one encounters in daily life or conversation are probably considered by the majority of people as simply that, a conceptual construct, one that is imagined rather than real.
But to be honest, it feels a little nit-picky and cruel to critique this aspect of Intacto when in reality, it was a fun and clever film, and quite enjoyable. Let’s just say that if you did want to start picking into it, it might not take too much analysis to pare it down fast.
** BY ED GONZALEZ / slantmagazine.com
NOVEMBER 7, 2002
On March 27, 1977, a young Juan Carlos Fresnadillo watched two 747 jumbo jets collide on the runway of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife airport in the Canary Islands. Fifteen years later, Fresnadillo unleashes his dehumanizing Intacto onto the world. Holocaust survivor Sam (Max von Sydow) runs a Casino in the Tenerife desert where Federico (Eusebio Poncela) takes his human good luck charms in order to play curious games of chance (Russian Roulette where all but one chamber has a bullet inside and, most memorably, a creepy contest where an insect needs to land on one of three human heads smothered in treacle). Petty thief Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is Federico’s token-of-the-week, the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash. In this much-ado-about-nothing procedural, Fresnadillo reduces his characters to pawns lost in a Greek labyrinth. Stylistically accomplished but needlessly heavy, Intacto contemplates a world in which someone’s good luck can be stolen with a photograph and used as ante in ghoulish betting games. During the film’s money sequence, Fresnadillo’s pawns run through a forest blindfolded—the last one not to smack headfirst into a tree stump is the winner. The anticipation is grueling but that’s all Intacto has working to its advantage. The obvious collection of good luck signs and overall emotionless vibe suggests that Fresnadillo was raised less on Kieślowski and more on endless midnight showings of Tom Tykwer’s Winter Sleepers.
Great Movie, Greater Script
28 February 2003 | by Quicksand 8/10* / IMBd
The more I think about this film, the more I liked it. The script was extremely well-written, with appropriate twists and turns for each of the numerous characters-- not just the antagonist and one other, as usually happens.
It's a great idea. What if Luck were a quantifiable commodity, and certain people had the ability to take it from others? What if such people were only one in a billion? The premise reminded me somewhat of "Unbreakable," but this movie has so many more complex characters and is so much better written-- yes, really.
However, the more I think about this film, the more I realize how much I disliked the cinematography, editing, production design, and lighting. I know they probably didn't have a lot of money to spend, but a good DP isn't hard to find. Making much of the movie literally dark to go with the psychological darkness was a fine idea, but executed poorly. It's unfortunate.
The script would make a great read, though, and I suspect that's why the film was able to be made. Those talking about "Adaptation" as an argument for a screenplay to be a legitimate piece of literature would do well to read "Intacto," and leave it at that.
As a film, though, I'd still recommend it. Good job keeping Max von Sydow away from the other actors... he acts circles around them. But the others do okay too. 8/10.
ROTTEN TOMATOES CRITIC 72% | AUDIENCE 82%
Some people are born with good luck, but others try to attain it however they can -- and at any cost -- in this offbeat psychological thriller from Spain. Samuel Berg (Max Von Sydow) is an elderly man who lives beneath a gambling casino on an island off the Spanish coast. In Berg's world, good fortune is a commodity that can be acquired from others, and while would-be gambler Federico (Eusebio Poncela) has a genuine talent for taking good luck from those who have it, Berg's gift is even stronger, and after a long day of absorbing positive vibrations from winning gamblers, Berg steals the day's "take" from him, leaving Federico to plan his revenge.
Federico becomes aware of Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a man who recently survived a plane crash, and is convinced he has even more luck than Berg can overcome; the two become partners, and Federico enters Tomas in an underground tournament designed to determine who Lady Luck smiles upon most sweetly. After Federico and Tomas win a handsome home from Alejandro (Antonio Dechent), a former bullfighter, the pair seems poised to go up against Berg and claim his luck as their own, but Sara (Monica Lopez), a police investigator, is convinced Federico and Tomas are up to no good and begins exploring their bizarre secret world.
Intacto received its American premiere at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
February 21, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/4
Roger Ebert / Chicago Sun-Times / Top Critic
I admired Intacto more than I liked it, for its ingenious construction and the way it keeps a certain chilly distance between its story and the dangers of popular entertainment.
The Spanish film "Intacto," like the recent Sundance entry "The Cooler," believes that luck is a commodity that can be given and received, won or lost, or traded away. Most people have ordinary luck, some have unusually good or bad luck, and then there is a character like Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who is the only survivor of an airplane crash, beating the odds of 237 million to 1. (I am not the statistician here, only the reporter.) The movie involves a man named Sam (Max von Sydow), who survived the Holocaust and now operates a remote casino at which rich people bet against his luck, usually unsuccessfully. So unshakable is his confidence that he will remove one bullet from a chamber holding six and then bet that he will not die. That he is alive to be a character in the movie speaks for itself.
Von Sydow, who in "The Seventh Seal" played a game of chess with Death, believes that he will lose his luck if the wrong person looks on his face at the wrong time, or takes his photograph. To guard himself, he must often sit in a closed room with a hood over his face. We wonder, but he does not tell us, if he thinks this is a high price to pay for good fortune. He has a young man named Federico (Eusebio Poncela) as his confederate; Federico also has good luck, and searches for others who have his gift. When Sam steals his luck, he goes searching for a protege of his own and finds Tomas.
The single-mindedness of these men assumes that winning at gambling is the most important thing in the world. Certainly there are gamblers who think so. Another of the Sundance entries, "Owning Mahowny," starred Philip Seymour Hoffman as a Toronto bank clerk who steals millions in order to fund his weekend getaways to Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He has a winning streak at roulette that in its intensity of focus has a kind of awesome power. In "The Cooler," William H. Macy plays a man whose luck is so bad that he is employed by a casino to merely rub up against someone in a winning streak; then his luck changes.
The two North American films are pretty straightforward in telling their stories. "The Cooler" involves an element of fantasy, but it involves the story, not the visual approach. "Intacto," directed by the talented young Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, is wilder visually, using the fractured narrative and attention-deficit camera style that can be effective or not, but often betrays a lack of confidence on the simple story level.
The story involves another more human element, centered on Sara (Monica Lopez), a cop who is chasing Tomas while grieving a tragic loss of her own. Will his luck protect him? What happens when it's luck vs. luck? I admired "Intacto" more than I liked it, for its ingenious construction and the way it keeps a certain chilly distance between its story and the dangers of popular entertainment. It's a Hollywood premise, rotated into the world of the art film through mannerism and oblique storytelling. The same ideas could be remade into a straightforward entertainment, and perhaps they already have been.
There's a fashion right now among new writers and directors to create stories of labyrinthine complexity, so that watching them is like solving a puzzle. I still haven't seen Alejandro Amenabar's "Open Your Eyes," which a lot of people admire, but when I saw Cameron Crowe's American remake, "Vanilla Sky," I knew as I walked out of the theater that I would need to see it again. I did, and got a different kind of overview and liked the film. I liked it the first time, too, but through instinct, not understanding.
When you solve a film like this, have you learned anything you wouldn't have learned in a straight narrative, or have you simply had to pay some dues to arrive at the same place? Depends. "Pulp Fiction," which jump-started the trend, depends crucially on its structure for its effect. "Intacto," which is not as complex as the other films I've mentioned, may be adding the layer of style just for fun. That is permitted, but somewhere within that style there may be a hell of a thriller winking at us.
"Max Von Sydow is the Nosferatu of the Luck Vampires"
August 10, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
Brian Mckay / eFilmCritic.com
Though at times the rules of this luck-stealing underworld aren't exactly clear, and the plot becomes a bit mired in its own cleverness, Intacto is an intriguing notion.
Imagine if someone could steal your luck from you with just a simple touch, or the quick snap of a polaroid. Now imagine that they could use that luck for their own gain, or trade it away to someone else - another luck stealer. Of course, if your luck is as shitty as mine usually is, you probably wouldn't notice much difference. But if you're at the roulette table and have the house down $50K, you might be more than a little miffed at having your streak broken after a stranger "accidentally" touches your hand.
The world of Intacto offers up this intriguing premise, exposing a strange underground of luck stealers, gamblers, and traders. So far, the undisputed king of luck thieves is Samuel the Jew (Max Von Sydow), and aged recluse who lives in the basement of the casino he owns, and who discovered his talent the hard way in the camps of World War 2. Samuel keeps his face hidden (lest anyone snap a picture of it) and keeps the occasional visitor at arm's length. He sends his protege', Frederico (Eusebio Poncela) to do his dirty work, "accidentally" brushing up against patrons whose winning streaks grow too large.
But Frederico is disattisfied with the arrangement and wants out. He is not allowed to leave, however, before Samuel has stolen his gift from him and had his goons drop him off beside the highway after a vicious beatdown.
Although Frederico is stripped of his talent, he can still recognize it in others. He becomes a headhunter, looking for extraoridnarily lucky people in which the gift can be cultivated. He's searching for one powerful enough to challenge Samuel, and he finds a likely candidate in Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a bank robber in flight who has been found alive, sitting upright in his seat amid a field of wreckage - wreckage from the plane that he was just on, and of which he is the only survivor.
Meanwhile, police detective Sara (Monica Lopez) is after Tomas, and finds her attempts to capture him foiled repeatedly by Frederico and other luck stealers who wish to use Tomas' abilities. As it turns out, however, the badly scarred Sara (having lost her family, and nearly her own life, in a car wreck) has a touch of the gift herself, although she doesn't fully realize it.
Though at times the rules of this luck-stealing underworld aren't exactly clear (for example, is having a photograph of a person enough to steal their luck, or must the luck-thief actually take the photograph themselves?) and the plot becomes a bit mired in its own cleverness, Intacto is an intriguing notion and offers up a whole new twist on the doublecross heist genre. Any similarity to films like Unbreakable are superficial at best (in fact, I found Intacto to be somewhat superior). Some of the most enjoyable moments are when the luck thieves, having each stolen luck from a random victim, engage in a bizarre series of betting games to see who is the luckiest. While the games start off as merely bizarre, they soon grow increasingly dangerous as the stakes are raised. When the lucky ones get to the final round, a game of reverse Russian roulette with Samuel himself, things get really interesting.
Spanish cinema has turned out some excellent fare in recent years, and INTACTO, despite it's few flaws, is no exception. Strong performances from an international cast, and a respectable script full of twists and turns that are admirably handled by director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo make INTACTO a solid thriller.
Mathieu B ****
December 31, 2006
Without those kind of thrillers, I wouldn't like movies as I do. Intacto is original, creative, stylish, imaginative, well acted(Max von Sydow) and well scripted (with good subtitles!). And the work of Fresnadillo, the director, is simply awesome!
I understand now why it is called a "thriller"! Because your entire body can't stop shaking, and your heart is beating faster and faster.
Jarett B ****
November 19, 2006
A very interesting concept, that is accompanied by serious and gifted filmmaking. A hidden gem.
William F ***
November 14, 2006
Good existential russian roullette movie about luck.
Max Von Sydow proves once again that he can carry a film and he does it here.
Alot of good subtle special fx and mind twisting guessing games keeps it from being cliched.
Kent L ****
September 11, 2006
OH such a great movie. I loved it. AWESOME!
Nelson C ****
September 7, 2006
a great one.
Jeff V ***½
September 3, 2006
Oddball concept, but it works.
Juan V ****
August 21, 2006
terrific movie with an original concept of luck being a tangable, stealable thing. great camerawork and direction, and a good script. if you see it at the video store, rent it, you'll like it.
Tony B ****
August 5, 2006
hmm, very strange. but great story and mood!!! i love the whole concept of luck and chance, like in the cooler!! man, the scene where those 5 ppl are running through the forest with the blindfolds on would have to be one of the most tense things ive ever seen in a movie!!! i was shakin in my boots!!!
Carlos G ****
July 7, 2006
Great film! Probably one of the best spanigh films of the last 10 years, easily on par with Amenabar's "Tesis".
S. G ****
June 30, 2006
The concept behind this film is very interesting and is slightly resemblant to Shyamalan's "Unbreakable", although it chooses a different path to explore the idea of luck. The premise is simple: some people have more luck than others, and those who do, also have the power to take it away from the people they come in contact with, so usually good luck for them means bad luck for those who are near them. Luck can be taken away through a simple handshake, and it all becomes a matter of who has more luck, so the "lucky ones" play all sorts of dangerous games to decide which is...ahem...luckier. The person who came up with the idea for the script is obviously a bit paranoid, but also quite clever. I feel that there was room for some more in-depth exploration of the subject, but maybe keeping things "mysterious" was part of the plan. Definitely an interesting idea, with some very good acting, and a direction that leaves me wanting to see more of J.C. Fresnadillo's work. Well worth watching, but be warned, it might freak you out a bit. OK, i'm becoming paranoid...
Efe A ***½
June 12, 2006
interesting movie... some hates it, i kinda like...
Richard W ****½
May 11, 2006
Excellent. A very imaginative concept and a great story
Roger C May ****
A very original take on the balance of luck, where people play deadly games to prove their fortune. Max von Sydow's steals the show as a concentration camp survivor. A stylish and memorable thriller.
Stephen C ****
March 3, 2006
One trippy spanish flick!
Tom T *****
February 26, 2006
One of the best films I have ever seen, grips you from start to finish and its one film that I never tire of.