An unconvincing period piece based on the true story of a kid criminal in ’70s Madrid, “My Quick Way Out (Volando Voy)” is studded with good moments but fails to develop its rich source material, leaving the final impression as a series of dramatic opportunities not taken. Surprisingly conventionally scripted given Miguel Albaladejo’s erstwhile penchant for thematic danger, pic is well-appointed but less well-played, unusual in a helmer who relies so much on the human touch. Nevertheless, prolific Albaladejo’s reputation should generate fest play and limited offshore arthouse bookings.
Juan Carlos, El Pera (11-year-old debutante Borja Navas, visually a Hispanic Artful Dodger) is either hyperactive or a sociopath depending on your point of view, a question which the script does little to resolve. Born into a working-class neighborhood to long-suffering father Juan (Spanish comic thesp Fernando Tejero, playing against type) and mother Pepita (Mariola Fuentes), El Pera is able to handle a car with the skill of a tweenie Michael Schumacher, and is being used by a local gang of delinquents as their getaway driver.
Arrested with ever greater frequency by corrupt cop El Senorito (Albaladejo stalwart Jose Luis Garcia-Perez), El Pera drifts out of the family orbit and implausibly into the arms of hippie loner Begona (Mar Regueras, struggling with a criminally misconceived and underwritten role — in an apparently true, but completely incredible, plotline that could have been cut to pic’s benefit). When, in the unlikeliest plot twist, Juan Carlos sees Begona and El Senorito together, he realizes his last meaningful contact with the adult world has gone and he is pushed over the edge into full-scale rebellion. Things move slowly toward El Pera’s redemption in the care of social worker Uncle Alberto (Alex Casanovas).
Some scenes, including the opening, work beautifully as standalone, but their cumulative power is not felt. There is over-reliance on well-lensed car-chase sequences (sometimes needlessly speeded up). Time would have been better-spent exploring psychological nuance.
Navas appears in most scenes and does well to convey the sense that he is in the grip of powerful impulses beyond his control, namely an addiction to rapid motion. But other juvenile thesps often look wooden, their perfs not matching up to their sometimes extraordinary looks.
Lensing captures place and period well, particularly when the action moves out of the city and into the open rural areas surrounding Madrid. The none-too-subtle soundtrack veers between rock and rumba. For the record, the real-life “El Pera” collaborated on the script.