TLA Releasing // 2004 // 107 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // March 17th, 2006
There's a sucker born every minute.
Having honed his skills at subterfuge during the years he spent in the Our Blessed Lady of the Abandoned Orphanage, Ernesto (Ernesto Altiero, The Other Side of the Bed) earns a living cheating suckers at games of three-card monte. A chance encounter with an elderly con man named Manco (Manuel Alexander) leads Ernesto into a partnership with Federico (Federico Luppi, The Devil's Backbone), Spain's most infamous con artist. Federico hatches a con so potentially lucrative it will allow him and his partners to retire in style. There's just one problem: in order for the con to work, the three men will need the assistance of Pilar (Victoria Abril, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), a former lover of Federico's who ten years earlier scammed him for all he was worth.
Swindled is one damn cool movie. On the surface it's reminiscent of The Grifters and David Mamet's House of Games, but it isn't as dark as the former or as twisted and gnarled as the latter, nor does it have the attempts at psychological probing you'll find in those films. Swindled is stylish, breezy and fun, with a plot that hurtles along as the characters screw over their marks and are screwed over by one another. This movie works, and it works so well that even if you know exactly where it's going, you'll still have a hell of a lot of fun watching it unfold. Director Miguel Bardem (Not Love, Just Frenzy) is primarily interested in showing his audience a good time, and he succeeds swimmingly. And the casting is right on the money. Of particular note are Federico Luppi, who is simply fantastic (no surprise there), and Victoria Abril, who, no pun intended, comes close to walking away with the whole thing (the fact that she is one stunningly sexy woman certainly doesn't hurt).
The transfer, unfortunately, is a disappointment. There are numerous instances of stair-stepping and moiré patterns; ghosting is also a problem, probably the result of a PAL master having been used to source the video. That being said, there are many moments when the transfer is dead solid perfect, although this tends to make the flaws all the more noticeable and annoying. The audio, on the other hand, is top notch. The surround channels are primarily used to convey music, although directional effects are routed to the rear soundstage on a handful of occasions. I split the running time of the film between the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks, and the latter wins hands down, with more heft, depth, and an overall smoother, more natural sound. Extras include a gallery of stills from the film, the original theatrical trailer, and trailers for four other TLA releases.
Swindled is a fast, fun, clever, witty movie. The flaws in the transfer knock it out of the purchase category, although it's still a great rental candidate.
Review content copyright © 2006 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Stills Gallery
* Theatrical Trailer
* TLA Previews