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Torrente V: Mission Eurovegas
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by Jay Seaver

"A reminder that Europe makes dumb comedies about idiots, too."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The fifth entry in a Spanish action-comedy series is an odd place for a well-known American actor like Alec Baldwin who has apparently not burned that many bridges back home to show up, and his character spends much of the movie grumbling questions about why he's working with these dolts. And, honestly, it's a question that folks who aren't fans of the franchise are going to be asking in a more meta sense, even if there's a bit of Ugly American-ism in wondering why he would bother with this movie which was, actually, a massive hit in Spain.

For those of us coming in late, José Luis Torrente (writer/director/star Santiago Segura) is a former cop of the racist-sexist-moron variety, and he has just spent several years in jail for whatever the heck happened in Torrente 4. Now it's 2018, Spain has been kicked out of the European Union and Catalan has declared its independence, and Torrente has decided he will become an outlaw. Fortunately, the contacts he made in prison include John Marshall (Baldwin), an American security consultant who knows Madrid's "EuroVegas" casino inside out, and has Torrente recruit a team to take it down during the final of the World Cup. Unfortunately, the people Torrente knows are, by and large, idiots.

Truth be told, I don't get much of a kick out of characters like Torrente where the audience is supposed to laugh at not just his bumbling but also his political incorrectness; the story always has them drifting toward being protagonists rather than just objects of ridicule. Comedy doesn't require someone to root for, but it's a natural thing to seek in a narrative, and Mission Eurovegas has too much plot to just point an laugh for its entire length unless the satire is a lot sharper.

It's just not, though. There's a bit toward the start where people are trying to get into prison because it's three meals a day and a roof over their heads, but after that, most of the jokes are basically of the "look, Torrente and his friends are sleazy and stupid", and that sort of thing is seldom actually very funny. It's compounded by there being a lot of these guys - cherry-picked from previous films in the series, perhaps - who never get a chance to stand out as individual characters or even anything but the most basic stereotypes. It makes for some rather bland material, as these people don't even seem weird enough for goofing on.

The heck of it is, there is some comedic talent there. Santiago Segura has been a regular part of Alex de la Iglesia's casts, for instance, and he shows himself as reasonably capable of keeping his material from landing with a obvious, painful thuds. It's not making good jokes great or even getting the bad ones to good, but it's keeping things lubricated and moving. Baldwin does his exasperated smarm in two languages, which is kind of amusing. Most of the characters are given too little material to make much of an impression, although there are a few standouts, most notably Chus Lampreave as the title character's elderly landlady.

For all that his character is a fool in front of the camera, Segura seems pretty capable behind it; "Torrente V" is slow to start but eventually picks up a good head of steam during the actual heist, hitting what is probably the proper professional-but-seemingly-ramshackle tone soon enough. If you go for this type of humor, you can do worse - it was not Spain's top-grossing film last year for no reason at all, I suppose. It's not a thing that works for me, though, and I found it a real slog.

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originally posted: 07/17/15 22:29:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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