An energetic, good looking comedy-thriller that for sheer professionalism is a cut or two above most Spanish stabs at the genre, writer-director Juan Martinez Moreno’s debut “Two Tough Guys” may not offer anything new but what it does, it does well. Distinguished by superior characterization, a nicely dovetailed script and attention to detail at all levels, pic grabbed the Audience Award at the Malaga fest and could generate offshore interest.
Fiftysomething hired killer Paco (Antonio Resines) is in debt to aging mafioso Don Rodrigo (Manuel Aleixandre), who, knowing he’ll never collect the money, tells Paco that instead of paying Rodrigo back, he may teach teach his dumb nephew Alex (Jordi Vilches) the tools of the killer trade. During a visit to a brothel, Alex falls for go-getting hooker Tatiana (Elena Anaya).
Meanwhile, Paco is offered the job of kidnapping butcher Aramis (the dependably excellent Maria Rosa Sarda) for an insurance scam. The farcical kidnapping, complete with Munch masks and a van with a giant crab on top, is neat, if overdone.
Soft-hearted Paco falls for Aramis, who turns out not to be a butcher but a mafiosa who’s planning to open Europe’s biggest brothel. In the final half-hour, the farcical tone gives way to some genuine suspense and plenty of up-front violence. And the tough guys turn out to be pretty nice guys after all.
Humor is haphazard, with the odd well-observed moment helping to compensate for the cliches. Perfs are lively, though the prolific Resines, Spain’s best-known golden-hearted tough guy, largely sleepwalks here. The hawk-faced Vilches, in his fourth feature, confirms his status as a young thesp to watch. “Shaft”-inspired soundtrack aims at irony but ends up as merely kitsch, and is over-used.