Intacto (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

M. Night's Unbreakable meets Cronenberg's Crash in an innovative Spanish production which will soon be remade by an American studio, in the tradition of other recent original European scripts like Spain's Abre Los Ojos (remade as Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise) and Norway's Insomnia (remade as Insomnia with Al Pacino).


Mónica López, as the policewoman, was topless very briefly.

Intacto takes place in its own universe, which is very similar to ours except that luck doesn't even out over the long run. Luck is a spiritual and physical commodity, like a special talent, or seventh sense. It is a quality we possess, like intelligence. People who are exceptionally lucky are always lucky, just as an intelligent person today will still be intelligent tomorrow. The only time the luck of the gifted fails them is when they are matched against someone who has even more luck, in a situation in which only one of them can win. The theology of chance also includes these credos: (1) someone's luck can be changed by physical touch (2) very gifted people may steal all of another's luck.

A luck cult exists. The luckiest people in the world meet to test themselves against each other in contests of pure chance. For example, at the entry level of the luck competitions, three people sit in a room with molasses on their hair, and the winner is the one who attracts a giant insect to his or her head. At an intermediate level, people run through a forest blindfolded, going as fast as they can until all but one have run into trees. At the highest level of competition, two people play Russian Roulette with five bullets in the six chambers.  The stakes of these games range from personal possessions at the lowest levels, to the luck of other people in the mid-levels, all the way to "everything" in the Russian Roulette game. If you lose that last test, you lose your life, your possessions, and whatever else you wager, like the luck of a loved one.

The cult of luck includes people like a bullfighter who never received a single scratch in a long career. The master of luck, the "fucking king of fate" as another character says, is a concentration camp survivor (Max Von Sydow) who was the one and only Jew left alive when the allies overran his camp. If his luck needed to be attested further, one need only look at his octogenarian life despite a long history of playing the five bullet version of Russian Roulette, in which he always goes first. Since he keeps winning other people's luck, he just keeps getting luckier and luckier. Four decades after The Seventh Seal, Van Sydow is still playing with Death, still winning.

The entire cult of luck is aware of Van Sydow's undefeated record, and few are confident enough to challenge him to a face-to-face Death Game, but some others in the cult take on a scouting role - remaining eternally vigilant in the search for a protege - a prospective newcomer who might be introduced to the cult, and might some day become the new king of destiny, splitting the proceeds with the scout who discovered him. One scout thinks he has the right man, the sole survivor of an airline crash who walked away virtually unharmed despite the fact that everyone else aboard was fried to a crisp. (It sounds a lot like Unbreakable at this point, but the connection is merely superficial.)

The storyline of the movie traces the intersecting destinies of the newcomer and the "fucking king of fate", during which time the young man rises through the gaming ranks in pursuit of the king, while he himself is pursued by an intrepid policewoman, whose exposure to the luck cult leads her to believe that she herself is a "luck vampire" who survived an auto accident because she stole the luck of her husband and child, who died in the same crash.

How will it end? This is the rare movie worth seeing, so you'll get no more hints from me. I don't often like strange films, but this one impressed the hell out of me, and I hope Hollywood does it justice on the remake.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1.

I hope Van Sydow lives long enough to reprise his role for Hollywood, because he maximized the impact of his limited screen time by turning in one of the most remarkable performances of his already impressive career. He is one of the most adaptable actors around. As he has aged, he's done whatever was necessary to stay at the top of his profession, never repeating or trying to recapture what he used to do when he was young, but constantly reinventing himself at a new stage, as if he were not one man, but several who shared the same body at different times.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 2.5/4, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.9/10, Yahoo voters are in complete agreement at 3.4/5
  • It received arthouse distribution, and garnered minimal box office.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Will you like it? Look at the description above, and be aware that it is spooky and ethereal, and is a very arty and peculiar movie which takes place in an alternate universe, like David Cronenberg's Crash. It is mostly in Spanish, although French and English are also spoken from time to time. It is humorless. Most of you have lost interest by now. Are you still interested? If so, you are going to love it, because it is unique and, in many ways, a somber masterpiece of startling originality, and the game playing is a fitting postmodern equivalent to Van Sydow's chess game with death in The Seventh Seal.

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