A big part of the fun in “Intact” — and it is a very fun movie — is figuring out the rules.
I won’t spoil them for you, then, but I will give this outline. The movie is based on the premise that luck is a transferrable commodity, and certain people have the gift of taking it from others. This is done sometimes by touching their hand, sometimes by photographing the person. And it stands to reason that if your luck is taken from you, you will now be very unlucky, while the thief will be very lucky indeed.
It all takes place in a luxurious European underworld (nicely photographed by Xavi Gimenez) where people play games of chance using other people’s stolen luck as currency — think Monte Carlo, but with Polaroids instead of poker chips. One man, Federico (Eusebio Poncela), once had the gift until it was taken from him by Samuel (Max von Sydow), his one-time employer and the innovator of the luck-transferring process. Now out for revenge, Federico is looking for a champion to destroy Samuel, and he thinks he’s found him in Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a thief who was recently the only survivor of a plane crash.
Tomas isn’t sure what to make of the crazy idea that he’s preternaturally lucky, but he knows that under Federico’s guidance, he keeps winning and winning, always staying one step ahead of the cops and others who are looking for him.
It is a credit to writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo that the luck-betting games don’t just involve dice and cards. In fact, the methods of determining which participant is luckiest grow more and more elaborate. (My favorite is where each player is blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back and then instructed to run at full speed through a forest. Whoever is luckiest, naturally, will NOT run face-first into a tree; everyone else will.) It’s all leading up to a trip to Ucanca, to go head-to-head with Samuel — the World Series of luck, you might say.
It’s a creative idea, and well-executed by Fresnadillo and his compatriots. Max von Sydow gives an exceptional performance as luckmeister Samuel, and his harrowing account of how he first learned to steal luck is unsettling.
If the film has a flaw, it’s in occasionally being too obtuse for its own good. One accepts that it will be hard to follow at times, given the strangeness of the premise. But that needn’t be compounded by unexplained, unnecessary bizarre behavior. Overlooking those few instances, “Intact” is weirdly logical and a mind-bending lark to watch.
A- (; )