Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Martinez’

The Tear Drinkers

iGilbert

Director: Adrian Martinez

Cast: Adrian Martinez, Dascha Polanco, Raul Castillo, Socorro Santiago, Mozhan Marno, Emilio Delgado

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

English and Spanish with English subtitles

Once Upon Time in Venice and Focus actor Adrian Martinez writes, directs and acts in his directorial debut film iGilbert about a diabetic overweight man who lives with his overprotective mother in a Manhattan brownstone and secretly takes pictures of beautiful woman while also spying on his mother’s tenant the voluptuous exotic dancer Jana wonderfully played by Dascha Polanca (Joy, In the Heights).

Psychologically iGilbert is a fascinatingly complex film yet Martinez as writer, director and actor of this film, unfortunately cannot view himself from a distance, so there are unexpected directorial flourishes which detract from the overall narrative. Nevertheless, iGilbert is interesting and disturbing.

It’s a bizarre tale of morally flawed characters that are all cloying at each other’s emotional boundaries, tear drinkers, waiting for the final combustion to occur. There is Jana’s aggressive boyfriend Tony, well played by Raul Castillo who is both possessive and unhinged, an ex-Army War veteran suffering from severe PTSD.

There is Gilbert Gonzalez’s mother Carmen who constantly plies her overweight son with more food despite his obesity, feeding his own insecurities and heightening his secretive voyeuristic tendencies. Carmen is expertly played by Socorro Santiago last seen in director Steve McQueen’s heist film Widows back in 2018.

Then there is detective Rivera who comes to Gilbert’s aid when he reports a rapist to the police. Detective Rivera is played by character TV actress Mozhan Marno who soon realizes that Gilbert has lots of psychological issues which he needs to explore and play out.

There is also Gilbert’s late step father who appears to him in surreal dream sequences: Rodolfo Delgado, a bizarre Charlie Chaplinesque type figure that antagonizes Gilbert adding to his psychological angst and his neurotic voyeuristic tendencies.

Most of the action takes place in and around a Manhattan brownstone, so if audiences are looking for an angst ridden, claustrophobic psychological drama then iGilbert is both entertaining and disturbing.

As a director Adrian Martinez should have handed the project to someone with more experience although he doesn’t do a bad job but his talent is nowhere near the likes of actors turned directors like Ben Affleck, Kenneth Brannagh and Clint Eastwood. Acting, directing and writing your own story is a tough act to follow.

 iGilbert gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is an unsettling piece of urban cinema all set in New York City.

From the Big Easy to Buenos Aires

FOCUS

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Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, Brennan Brown, Adrian Martinez, Dominic Fumusa

The writing and directing team of I Love You Philip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa recreate a similar glossier con film teaming up Will Smith (Bad Boys) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) in Focus.

Con artists, petty thieves, grifters all unite in this amusing if slightly drawn out tale of Nicky who first meets the flirtatious Jess beautifully played by Robbie in a swanky New York Hotel bar. The chemistry between the two onscreen are palpable and soon the action or lack thereof, moves from icy New York to sultry New Orleans during the SuperBowl weekend.

As the crowds flock to the Big Easy to watch the Superbowl or known as the National Finals of the American Football, the con is on as Nicky with a band of thieves and light fingered crew rob the unsuspecting crowds of their watches, jewellery, wallets and even luggage in the infamous French Quarter or one of New Orleans swanky hotels.

As Nicky and Jess procure tickets to the Superbowl finals, his proclivity for gambling becomes evident as he delves into sports betting against a notorious Chinese gambler, Liyuan flamboyantly played by B. D. Wong (The Normal Heart).

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As the stakes get higher Jess soon realizes that the number 55 chosen by the gambler is part of a larger con to extract more cash out of him. After doubling their money in New Orleans, a crime partnership seems imminent put then Nicky does the unexpected U-turn and dumps Jess in the Big Easy much to her horror.

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The action moves forward three years to the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires to the racy and glamourous world of Formula One racing driving where Nicky is employed by a wealthy Argentinian playboy Garriga wonderfully played by Rodrigo Santoro who incidentally also appeared in I Love you Philip Morris to con a rival Australian team out of a special racing gadget. As Nicky told Jess back in New York when the con is on, one needs to always maintain focus.

Things in Buenos Aires get murkier when Jess appears on the scene looking absolutely gorgeous in a red dress at an Argentine nightclub. Margot Robbie who excelled as the wife of Jordan Belfort in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street excels in this role making the screen sizzle with her beauty and naughty naivety. Viewers should also watch out for a great character role of Owens superbly played by Gerald McRaney recently seen in the brilliant Netflix series House of Cards.

Without giving away more of the plot, Focus does actually lose some of its focus especially in some of the scenes between Smith and Robbie, and the narrative does appear disjointed and is nowhere near as compact or sinister as Stephen Frears classic, The Grifters, but then that was on an entirely more sophisticated film. Although Focus by writing and directing team Ficarra and Requa is not the first film of theirs that I have compared to The Grifters, Stephen Frears’s film noir classic, it is certainly the benchmark to set all con films by.

Focus is a fun filled if slightly drawn out con movie, with lots of glamour, a lot less action but nevertheless it’s beautiful to watch, yet the filmmakers fail to draw the audience in too deeply into the characters misfortunes. Recommended for those that enjoyed Now You See Me and I Love You Philip Morris.

 

 

 

That Seventies Con!

American Hustle

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Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Shea Wingham, Robert de Niro, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena

Acclaimed director of Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell delivers another cinematic masterpiece with his latest film American Hustle about a couple of con artists in New York in 1978 during the Disco era. Think fabulous Seventies costumes, broad Jersey accents, big hair, the brilliantly ensemble cast of American Hustle all deliver top notch acting along with some sassy flair and loads of self-deception.

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Oscar Winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) is brilliant as  Irving Rosenfeld a two-bit con artist with a chain of dry cleaning businesses which also double as a front for selling fake art to unsuspecting New Yorkers who teams up with Sidney/Edith a sexy pole dancer turned grifter superbly played by Amy Adams (Doubt, The Fighter) at a Jersey pool party in January!

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Together the ever glamorous Edith sporting a fake British accent and the smooth talking wily potbellied Irving unveil their small scams selling unsuspecting lines of credit to gamblers, pimps and two bit hustlers. However their duplicitous lives are crossed by unstable Richie diMarso energetically played by Bradley Cooper (Place beyond the Pines), complete with a perm and a pent-up attitude who is in fact an FBI agent out to catch bigger fish from corrupt politicians to American mobsters who control the Florida casinos in Florida are looking to reinvigorate Jersey’s den of iniquity Atlantic City with its newly acquired gambling licences.

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The setting is New York, 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, when the American public are distrustful of smooth taking politicians and economically hangover from a 1977 oil embargo and a costly Vietnam war. Director Russell captures the ambience of the late 1970’s Americana perfectly heavily influenced by the films of that period including The French Connection, American Gigolo and even the 007 film Live and Let Die. As the narrative unfolds a complication comes in the form of the no-nonsense confident chain smoking wife of Irving, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, a knockout performance by Jennifer Lawrence, last year’s Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook.

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American Hustle follows a cleverly scripted and elaborate plot about these four drifters and cons who not only try to out wit the FBI, the mob and a shady Jersey politician Mayor Carmine Polito a well coiffed Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy) involving shifting money for fronting an imaginary investment into the revitalization of Atlantic City casinos. Oddly enough the con also involves funds from a mysterious Abu Dhabi Sheik, comically downplayed by Michael Pena who is in fact Mexican.

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Amy Adams gives a tour de force performance as Sidney/Edith a vulnerable yet shrewd woman who can smooth talk any man out of his cash which is certainly Oscar worthy along with the rest of the brilliant ensemble cast making up regulars from David O. Russell’s two previous hit films Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter.

Alessandro Nivola (Coco Avant Chanel), Robert de Niro (Casino) and Shea Wingham (Savages, Take Shelter) also make a welcome appearance. Any viewer who experienced or grew up in the sassy disco inspired 1970’s will appreciate every aspect of authenticity of this ambiance infused con drama featuring magnetic performances by the four leads along with a witty, comic and incisive script co written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer.

American Hustle is a sophisticated sexy adult drama dripping with menace and deception, complete with a dynamic plot in the lines of Stephen Frears excellent The Grifters and Sam Mendes American Beauty. It’s the ultimate homage film about that Seventies Con featuring the unrivalled power of intention and people’s limitless capacity for survival, love and betrayal.

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