We’re familiar with the rom-com, but if you’re keen to see how director Ariel Winograd rolls together a film that’s also a swi-ller (swindle-thriller), To Fool a Thief (Vino para robar) will school you, Argentinean style.
Written by Adrián Garelik, the story opens when suave high-stakes burglar Sebastián (Daniel Hendler), aided by techno-nerd side-kick Chucho (Martin Piryansky) attempt the theft of an ancient mask. Enter the seemingly hapless Mariana (Valeria Bertucelli) who, it turns out, is not everything she seems. They embark on a who’s-conning-who heist that travels from the cosmopolitan museum, to the Mendoza wine region as adversaries Sebastián and Mariana realise that to achieve their goal, they must work together.
A bank heist with a wine twist sets the scene for the remaining shenanigans, which include some stereotypical characters; menacing wine collector Basile (Juan Leyrado) as a credibly-played baddie; Pablo Rago as the serious detective always one step behind; and Mario Alarcón as Mariana’s father, the winery owner who spends most of the time sampling his yield.
The story is unapologetically clichéd, with plot holes that are easy to forgive with the charming, stylised presentation and some solid performances, wrapped up in a stunningly shot endorsement for Argentinean wine country. From the opening staircase and the bridged canyon scenes through to the sweeping Mendoza shots, the cinematography by veteran Ricardo DeAngelis ads impressive class.
Dario Eskenazi’s congruous score over tightly paced action sequences keeps Sebastián considered in the right light (think Bond, Bourne, Hunt), whilst Mariana (think Amélie, Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens) is juxtaposed with quirkiness alone and channels shades of vintage Hollywood. Hendler is convincing as the straight faced handsome conman, and Bertuccelli shines as the happy-go-lucky girl-next-door; but neither quite satisfy in their happily ever after roles.
To Fool a Thief is a cute and amusing, easy-watching zippy film. At times, the audience is spoon-fed plot points more than might be considered necessary, but given it’s in Spanish with English subtitles and sets a cracking pace, this is not unwelcome. Stay to catch the elegant end graphics and credits.
Safe cracking and glamour meets double-crossing and wine swilling, in this pleasurable cat-and-mouse heist caper with more twists than a Chubby Checker marathon. Enjoy being fooled by this thief.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Rating out of 10: 7