Hitchcock's wrong man prototype receives a new but not terribly inspired lease on life in "Rabbit on the Moon." Pic traces an innocent couple caught in a conspiracy involving corrupt Mexican officials and British defense personnel. "Rabbit" will limp rather quietly into cable and vid safe-houses after its current solid performance in Mexican hardtops.

Hitchcock’s wrong man prototype receives a new but not terribly inspired lease on life in “Rabbit on the Moon.” Noteworthy as a co-production by Mexico and Blighty, pic traces an innocent couple caught in a conspiracy involving corrupt Mexican officials and British defense personnel. Neither artfully enough made by writer-director Jorge Ramirez-Suarez nor produced for maximum thrills, “Rabbit” will limp rather quietly into cable and vid safe-houses after its current solid performance in Mexican hardtops.

The central players in the complex cat-and-mouse game live in entirely separate worlds. Mexican-Brit husband-and-wife Antonio (Bruno Bichir) and Julie (Lorraine Pilkington) enjoy a pleasant life in Mexico City, while Lopez (Alvaro Guerrero), the topper of a deliberately unnamed political party, is trying to engineer an elaborate money-laundering deal with British defense officials and a powerful Mexican drug family.

When a politician gets in his way, Lopez deploys gofer Chubby (Hugo Ivan Chavero) to set up an assassination of the politician by a patsy gunman known as “Crazy Man” (Rodrigo Vazquez), who in turn is to be gunned down immediately after the murder. But, things grow dicey when Crazy Man is only wounded and not killed.

Meanwhile, Chubby, who sells plots of land on the side, discovers his friend Antonio is interested in buying, although Julie is a bit more skeptical. When the couple hears about Chubby’s involvement in the assassination, however, Antonio cancels the land deal. To get back at him, Chubby drops Antonio’s name to authorities as leader of a fictional circle responsible for the political killing.

In the hands of a more skilled writer and director, the plot’s interlocking gears would be the pretext for an engaging political drama with intense emotional undercurrents. A fine twist involving Antonio’s flight to Britain and difficult dealings with Bower (Adam Kotz), Julie’s former lover, appears to set up “Rabbit” for some of the rich rewards of a John LeCarre tale, but both staging and playing fall frustratingly flat. Meanwhile, Julie’s incarceration by the nasty Mexican attorney general ends up boring, if not downright ludicrous.

The Spanish-lingo side of the cast tends to work far more effectively in roles both good and sleazy than their Brit counterparts, and this imbalance is paralleled by how the film’s grounding in Mexican affairs is infinitely more convincing than comparable shenanigans across the Pond.

One creative decision is especially striking but questionable: Production, using separate Mexican and Brit crews, was lensed on film in Mexico and in high-def vid in the U.K. Credits, matching nature of the film and its making, are bilingual.

Rabbit On The Moon

Mexico-U.K.

Production

A Beanca Films/Head Gear presentation . Produced by Phil Hunt, Greg Cruttwell, Jorge Ramirez-Suarez. Executive producer, Compton Ross. Directed, written by Jorge Ramirez-Suarez.

Crew

Camera (Newart color, 35mm, HD video-to-35mm), Luis Sansans Arnanz; editor, Alex Rodriguez; music, Eduardo Gamboa; production designers, Bernardo Trujillo (Mexico), Charlie Tymms(U.K.); costume designers, Barbara Gonzalez (Mexico), Emma Williams (U.K.); sound (Dolby Digital), Santiago Nunez, Rosie Straker; sound designers, Nerio Barberis, Lena Esquenazi, Matias Barberis; line producers, Sandra Solares (Mexico), Geraldine Hawkins (U.K.); associate producer, Gustavo G. Ramirez; assistant directors, Adrian Grunberg (Mexico), Chris Stoaling (U.K.); casting, Manuel Teil (Mexico), Sam Chandley (U.K.). Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Festival, Nov. 7, 2004. Running time: 113 MIN.

With

Bruno Bichir, Lorraine Pilkington, Jesus Ochoa, Adam Kotz, Alvaro Guerrero, Rodrigo Murray, Emma Cunniffe, Reece Dinsdale, Carlos Cobos, Rodrigo Vazquez, Hugo Ivan Chavero. (Spanish, English dialogue)
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