"Mal día para pescar/Bad Day To Go Fishing", de Alvaro Brechner (Variety)

By Jordan Mentzer

A Baobab Films, Telespan 2000 (Spain)/Expresso Films (Uruguay) production. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Munich.) Produced by Adolfo Blanco. Executive producers, Alvaro Brechner, Tomas Cimadevilla, Virginia Hinze. Directed by Alvaro Brechner. Screenplay, Brechner, Gary Piquer, based on the short story "Jacob y el otro" by Juan Carlos Onetti.

With: Gary Piquer, Jouku Ahola, Antonella Costa, Cesar Troncoso, Bruno Aldecosea, Roberto Pankow.

A quirky film noir cum dark comedy featuring a washed-up wrestler, his hoodwinking manager and a forlorn South American town circa 1961, "Bad Day to Go Fishing" casts its line into unusual waters but doesn't yield an entirely convincing catch. Uruguayan director Alvaro Brechner's ambitious debut is something like a retro "The Wrestler" by way of the Coen brothers or Mexican helmer Arturo Ripstein, with sharp production values and a fair share of pulp fatalism. Yet the cartoonish characters and overstretched running time turn a potentially engaging narrative into a mere curiosity, making for attractive festival bait with only minor theatrical potential.

Ex-wrestling star Jacob van Oppen (Jouko Ahola) and impresario/self-anointed prince Orsini (Gary Piquer, in a deliciously vintage perf) arrive in an anonymous Uruguayan town to launch a match between the champ and an amateur challenger. But what should be easy money becomes a chain of mishaps, with Jacob's failing physique provoking an existential crisis and Orsini facing up to a stubborn femme fatale (Antonella Costa). Lush widescreen lensing and set design make the antics watchable, but languid editing prolongs and tires things out before the exciting final bout.

Camera (color, widescreen), Alvaro Gutierrez; editor, Alain Dessauvage; music, Mikel Salas, production designer, Gustavo Ramirez; costume designer, Alejandra Rosasco. Reviewed at Cinematheque Francaise, Paris, May 6, 2009. (In Cannes Film Festival -- Critics' Week.) Original title: Mal dia para pescar. English, Spanish dialogue. Running time: 106 MIN.

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