Unusually safe and dependable for a debut feature, “Once and for All” successfully manages to conceal the limitations of its budget and shooting schedule (six weeks in the Canary Islands) while only occasionally igniting passions. Offshore commercial prospects look modest for this remake of Francisco Perez-Dolz’s classic 1963 thriller, though pic shows helmer Jesus Mora can keep a complex plot afloat and occasionally hints at better things to come.
Roman (fresh-faced Toni Canto) is an ex-criminal approaching 30 who, having gone straight, realizes that his life is wasting away. Shock-blond g.f. Marisa (Laura Pamplona) is nudging him toward better things. When sadistic homosexual criminal Martin (enthusiastically played by Adolfo Fernandez in pic’s meatiest role) resurfaces after a 10-year absence to offer him the chance of a big haul, Roman agonizes and then joins up again.
The gang is completed by ex-junkie Picas (Roman Luknar), whose wife, Julia (Ana Gracia), is pregnant, and Martin’s good-looking Brazilian accomplice, Nuno (Luis Rodrigues). Plot shifts up a gear as the boys unsuccessfully rob a supermarket and then decide to go for the big one – the robbery of a security truck carrying funds from a rock concert. When the police get involved, tension slackens, with events running toward a “surprise” revelation that does not surprise at all, as Mora has over-prepared audiences for it.
Camerawork captures the sparkling Mediterranean surroundings nicely, and perfs are up to scratch. Theater actor Fernandez stands out, finding sympathetic human details in a character who, on paper at least, is morally repulsive.
But Mora has limited himself by studying the handbook, and the original pic, too closely. Strict adherence to the first film’s template results in a ’60s thriller shot with ’90s technology. Suspense would have been enhanced by taking a few more dramatic liberties.