In 1965, a ragtag group of criminals had flawlessly planned the heist of an armored car carrying tons of cash to a small town in Argentina. The escape route was set, the getaway driver heavily sedated to ensure he would stay calm, and all involved were heavily armed. But, of course, things didn’t go quite as planned. After a shootout and a narrow escape, their biggest concern became how to avoid arrest. These real-life events inspired a book by Ricardo Piglia and later a film – both carry the title, Plata Quemada.
The film, released back in 2000, was a huge box office hit in Argentina. It’s not at all surprising that it did so well in theaters. Who wouldn’t love a fast-paced heist movie with lots of guns, money, moody music, and steamy bedroom scenes? Adding to its appeal are the “you are so beautiful it hurts to look at you” (yep, I just quoted My So-Called Life) lead actors Eduardo Noriega and Leonardo Sbaraglia. They play Nene and Angel, an infamous crime duo known as Los Mellizos who also happen to be lovers. It has taken incredible restraint to not completely objectify the pair by painstakingly recounting the sex scenes or mentioning how much time they spend with their shirts off. But, I think it’s enough to say that the film is unrated and was called “intensely erotic” by the New York Times.
Good looks and shirtless scenes aside, it’s a dark and brooding, utterly compelling film that takes you deep into the criminal underworld. Dodging the police, Los Mellizos and the getaway driver are forced into hiding after quickly fleeing from Buenos Aires. The day after the botched robbery Fontana, the heist’s mastermind, reads to them newspaper headlines. “Are we famous?” asks Nene. Fontana holds up the newspaper to show him “Yes, in bold print.” The trio has been christened “caos, destrucción y muerte” by the press. The film brims over with all three. The action is intense, the relationships are passionate, and the actors mesmerizing. There’s drugs and guns, sex and violence, betrayal and pain. Part film noir, with its shadowy figures and billowing cigarettes, and part tempestuous love story, Plata Quemada is a crime thriller like you’ve never seen before.
Plata Quemada (Burnt Money)
Director: Marcelo Piñeyro
Country: Argentina, Spain, Uruguay