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On Probation

A well-scripted and played Argentinean buddy movie that generates fine comedy and decent thrills from an engagingly offbeat premise, "On Probation" is a surprising pleasure. Though things fall apart somewhat in the final reels, the solid work early on sees pic through successfully.

With:
With: Diego Peretti, Luis Luque, Oscar Ferreiro, Gabriela Izcovich, Martin Adjemian, Tony Lestingi.

A well-scripted and played Argentinean buddy movie that generates fine comedy and decent thrills from an engagingly offbeat premise, “On Probation” is a surprising pleasure. Though things fall apart somewhat in the final reels, the solid work early on sees pic through successfully. “Probation” did good business at home following its September 2005 release, followed by unexpectedly healthy Spanish B.O. in 2006, suggesting pic could walk free in selected offshore markets beyond the Hispanic, with a cult following via fest play likely.

Two petty criminals are brutally murdered by dodgy Lebonian (Oscar Ferreiro), foreshadowing the thriller hi-jinx of pic’s later, less successful reels.

Following a traffic accident, high-strung psychoanalyst Mariano (Diego Peretti, reprising his successful Argentinean Woody Allen turn from “It’s Not You, It’s Me”) is assigned to community service and must accompany overweight, depressed cop Alfredo Diaz (Luis Luque), on his rounds. A nice rapport between the pair develops through their in-car conversations.

Invited for a meal at Mariano’s, in a beautifully-played, laugh aloud scene, Diaz accuses Mariano’s wife Diana (Gabriela Izcovich) of being unfaithful to Mariano, finally eliciting a confession from her at gunpoint. The shocked Mariano now throws himself into his new job as Diaz’s companion, and the two are put on the case of the dead crooks from pic’s opening.

Pic loses some of its quirky charm when half of its superb double act, Diaz, is accused of corruption and put in jail, but Peretti’s considerable comic skills as Mariano mean that interest rarely flags.

Intelligently spiking themes close to Argentinean cinema’s heart, namely the pretensions of psychoanalysis and institutional corruption, the script ably manages to keep its comic and thrillerish elements afloat simultaneously.

The Peretti/Luque tandem deserves further exposure. Pic is at its strongest early on when featuring deceptively simple, apparently spontaneous dialogue, and in its character-based moments, but attention is also paid to credibility, with the plot never spiraling out of control. Tech credits successfully make the most of a limited budget.

On Probation

Argentina

Production: A Notro Films release (in Spain) of a Shok Films/20th Century Fox production. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Boulogne Billancourt Cedex, France.) Produced by Oscar Kramer, Hugo Sigman. Directed, written by Damian Szifron.

Crew: Camera (color), Lucio Bonelli; editor, Alberto Ponce; music, Guillermo Guareschi; art directors, Jorge Ferrari, Juan Carlos Roust; sound (Dolby Digital, DTS), Fernando Soldevila. Reviewed at Cine Princesa, Madrid, May 31, 2006. Running time: 112 MIN.

With: With: Diego Peretti, Luis Luque, Oscar Ferreiro, Gabriela Izcovich, Martin Adjemian, Tony Lestingi.

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