A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while this subtitled caper film is warm-hearted and doles out plenty of lessons -- for starters, don't prey on the disenfranchised and don't forget your roots -- it's still about a gang of thieves stealing from someone (even if he is a despicable lowlife). In a Robin Hood way, the movie (like the Ocean's series) glamorizes what's essentially a criminal undertaking, and tweens may not grasp the nuances. In addition to the somewhat salty language (including one "f--k" and the other usual suspects), there are some fairly brutal scenes, especially toward the end, when a man is violently beaten. Characters also make ends meet by stealing (pirating videos and helping themselves to other people's pocket change).
What's the story?
Opening briskly on the set of an infomercial, LADRÓN QUE ROBA A LADRÓN (A Thief Who Steals From a Thief) quickly establishes the bad guy: Valdez (Saul Lisazo), an entrepreneur with a too-bright smile who's made millions hawking potions that plainly don't work -- everything from fat blasters to (most abominably), a tonic that claims to cure cancer. Unbeknownst to him, ex-acquaintance Emilio (Miguel Varoni) has spirited his way into America to exact revenge. Years ago, he and Valdez both apprenticed with a kindly crook with a genius for the con, a man Valdez has long since abandoned. And that's not Valdez's only sin: In Emilio's eyes, Valdez, whose prey includes Latino audiences, has broken an unwritten code -- never go after your own people -- and his time for reckoning has come. Emilio will steal every dollar Valdez has socked away in an underground vault at his mansion. And he'll do it in broad daylight. But first, he needs a crew, and unfortunately, his usual men aren't available. Trusted sidekick Alejandro (Fernando Colunga) recruits newbie replacements: a valet attendant and his tomboyish mechanic daughter, a construction worker, an out-of-work actor, and a nanny (the luminous Julie Gonzalo). Can they make it work?
Is it any good?
In the age of the Brad Pitt-George Clooney-Matt Damon-branded blockbuster, one wonders if a heist movie without blindingly bright star wattage can succeed; if it's anything like Ladron, it can. Breezy and charming, this Spanish-language film pleases despite -- or perhaps because of -- the absence of tabloid regulars.
It takes plenty of suspension of disbelief to take the movie's heist at face value (too many things have to go exactly right), but director Joe Menendez and screenwriter José Angel Henrickson still manage to entertain. And the cast is fantastic, their rapport refreshingly free of the over-the-top camaraderie that fills the Ocean's movies (both the Clooney and the Sinatra versions).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why heist movies like this one are so appealing. What sets the "good" cons apart from their adversaries? Why does what they're doing seem less bad than other criminal acts? Would it be different if Valdez wasn't such a thoroughly bad guy? How does the film make it seem like there's a clear difference between stealing from the rich who prey on the poor and just stealing? Are the thieves in the right or wrong? Does Hollywood glamorize crime? If so, what are the consequences of that?
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