Director: Olivier Assayas
Writers: Olivier Assayas based on the book by Fernando Morais
One particular day in 1990, Cuban pilot Rene Enriquez (Edgar Ramirez) abandoned his wife Olga (Penelope Cruz) and flew his plane all the way from Havana, Cuba to Miami, Florida, USA to defect. There, he joined an organization led by Jose Basulto (Leonardo Sbaragila) which worked to thwart the plans of anti-Castro groups. He joined missions to help other Cubans were crossing the ocean to the US by dropping them supplies, as well as other shady fund-raising activities.
The first thing which would attract you to check out this Spanish film was that cast. Three prominent Latino actors headline this -- Penelope Cruz, Gael Garcia Bernal and Ana de Armas. Acclaimed Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez and Brazilian actor Wagner Moura play the two Cuban defectors Enrique and Roque who became members of the Wasp Network. While the US treated them as terrorists, they are regarded as patriots among the Cuban masses. It started off fine telling Rene's story alone. However, adding the stories of the charismatic Juan Pablo Roque (and his marriage to Miami socialite Ana) and network pioneer Gerardo Hernandez made the whole storytelling lose focus and feel episodic.
Directed by: Guillaume Pierret
Written by: Guillaume Pierret, Alban Lenoir, and Kamel Guemra
Lino (Alban Lenoir) was a serving time for his petty crimes when a senior policeman named Charas (Ramzy Bedia) noted his skills in automotive engineering. Lino worked as a mechanic to enhance their police cars to make them stronger and faster to keep up with the cars used by criminals. Charas helped Lino to reach out to his younger brother Quentin (Rod Paradot), who was also involved in illegal activities. However, circumstances turn awry when Charas was killed by a dirty fellow cop, and Lino was being framed to be responsible.
This French film was sort of a take off from the "Fast & Furious" films with its gangsters and fast cars, but the car stunts in this one were done practically, none of the incredible "F&F" special effects. Gruff French actor Alban Lenoir played Lino, a role which would have been played by a younger Jason Stratham if this had been a British production. Lenoir had some awesome scenes of manual combat, especially that exhilarating sequence where he was battling practically the whole police department to escape. It was an exciting watch while it lasted, but it was still a B action movie at its heart.
Directed by: Cüneyt Kaya
Written by: Cüneyt Kaya
Using his innate charm and slick eloquence, Viktor Steiner (David Kross) rose from abject poverty to become a real estate tycoon with the help of his enterprising and quick-thinking pals Gerry Falkland (Frederick Lau) and Nicole (Janina Uhse). However, their under-the-table get-rich-quickly shenanigans soon gave rise to a lifestyle of excess and vice. This life of decadent opulence made them careless in their business deals and later even took a toll on Viktor's personal life. It did not take long when the taxman had to come along to collect their dues.
This German film had so much of a "Wolf of Wall Street" vibe, you cannot unsee the very obvious references and similarities in style. Like "Wolf," there were scenes of wild parties, cocaine sniffing, champagne fountains, fast sportscars, sexy women -- no surprises here. I will not pretend to fully understand the elaborate financial real estate transactions Viktor and company engage in, from the auctions to the mortgages to the taxes, and to the schemes they resort to circumvent the authorities. Anyhow, it was good to see David Kross again in a lead role 12 years after he romanced Kate Winslet in his Oscar-nominated breakthrough film "The Reader" (2008).
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."