'Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis'

Pic delivers gross-out humor, political incorrectness, an endless parade of Spanish celeb cameos, 3D and the occasional moment of authentic wit.

Driven by popular demand and unabashed greed, “Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis” reps the latest revival of writer-helmer-star Santiago Segura’s iconic lowlife Spanish cop. Pic delivers exactly what it promises, namely gross-out humor, political incorrectness, an endless parade of Spanish celeb cameos, 3D and the occasional moment of authentic wit amid all the bad taste — hallmarks of a series whose insights into unreconstructed Spanish manhood still redeem it from being simply junk. “Torrente 4″ sold more than 1 million tickets in its opening weekend, grossing $11.6 million off a record-breaking 665 engagements, repping the biggest-ever domestic bow for a Spanish film.

The haul reps the fourth-best opening weekend in Spain, surpassed only by the two most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and “The Da Vinci Code.” Remake options have been taken by New Line in the U.S. and La Petite Reine in France, but pic itself is a local comedy on steroids, of little interest beyond Hispanic territories.

The plot is no more than a clothesline on which to hang gags and guest appearances. Once again played by Segura (a tireless, Twitter-happy self-promoter whose name provokes either a grin or a wince in Spain), disgraced former cop-turned-private dick Jose Luis Torrente is down and out when he’s contracted by Ramirez (Enrique Villen) to kill the father of the bride (Maria Lapiedra) whose wedding Torrente has just escaped after causing chaos. Torrente is aided initially by porn-shop worker Julito (Kiko Rivera), though he and Ramirez soon betray the detective, who winds up in jail.

Inside, he meets a series of lowlifes, including his uncle Gregorio (87-year-old vet Tony Leblanc, who has appeared in all installments of the franchise). Other inmates are played mainly by other Spanish celebs, often parodying their public personas, such as international soccer stars Cesc Fabregas and Kun Aguero, playing cons who help Torrente set up a match, a la John Huston’s “Victory,” to affect his escape.

Gag strike rate falls off after the first 30 minutes, but there are still a few laugh-out-loud moments, such as one in which Torrente clumsily fails to demonstrate that a subway ticket can be a lethal weapon in the right hands.

Unsurprisingly, in an item featuring so many cameos and just a handful of pros, thesping quality is so-so, but Rivera makes an unexpectedly decent foil to Torrente. Segura himself looks completely at home in his role as the antihero, sexist and racist but with an ever-present insecure streak that saves him, such as when he delivers a forlorn little state-of-the-nation monologue to a statue of his dead hero, the singer El Fary. This scene also happens to include the cheapest of shots at the fact that there’s a black man in the White House.

The fact that stereoscopic technology is used at all here is more comically surprising in itself than any of the uses to which it is put; there’s only so much humor to be derived from watching drink cascade in 3D out of Torrente’s mouth. But action scenes (read: exploding cars) are done with panache, and the 3D also renders the unappealing physical details of our hero’s shirt-stains, stubble and wobbling belly with appalling hyperrealism.

Visually, pic aims to outgross anything in the series so far and succeeds with, for example, a rear-end-and-testicles panorama that spills over into the pornographic. Spanish title — “Torrente 4: Crisis Letal (Lethal Crisis)” — satirizes the Spanish industry’s patronizing habit of unhelpfully translating original titles that don’t need to be translated.

Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis

Spain

Production

A Warner Bros. release of an Amiguetes Entertainment, Bowfinger, Antena 3 Films production in association with Canal Plus Espana. (International sales: Filmsharks, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Mercedes Gamero, Maria Luisa Gutierrez, Santiago Segura. Directed, written by Santiago Segura.

Crew

Camera (color, HD, 3D,) Teo Delgado; editor Alejandro Lazaro; music, Roque Banos; art directors, Jose Luis Arrizabalaga, Biaffra; costume designer, Lala Huete; sound (Dolby Digital Surround), Edgar Vidal, Erik Vidal, Gabriel Gutierrez, Kiku Vidal; visual effects, Francisco Palomares Pozas, Pedro Lara; second unit director, Fede Cuevas. Reviewed at Cinesa Principe Pio, Madrid, March 13, 2011. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Santiago Segura, Kiko Rivera, Tony Leblanc, Yon Gonzalez, Javier Gutierrez, Enrique Villen, Canita Brava, Belen Esteban, Xavier Deltell, Maria Lapiedra, Cesc Fabregas, Kun Aguero.

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