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Big Deal on Madonna Street
the DVD


. "Nicotina" (aka, "Cigarros, Desamores, y 20 Diamantes")

This case of one thing leading to another and nobody getting what they want is sprinkled with bad guys you don't much like, bad guys you do like, and a few pissy people you'd like to see taken out or taken away. Nicotina is a comedy of errors that Peter Sellers, if he were around, might find amusing.

Computer hacker Lolo (Diego Luna) finds himself in the center of a scam to trade Swiss bank account data for diamonds with Svoboda (Norman Sotolongo), an overstuffed and bearded Russian mobster with a nasty disposition. Lolo's pals Nene and Tomson (Lucas Crespi and Jesus Ochoa) are the scammers who set up the deal and are depending on Lolo to burn a CD disc with the bank info. To the point of annoyance, they continue to haggle over the lethal effects of cigarettes with not much more reason than to provide the film its title.

Andrea (Marta Belaustegui), Lolo's pretty neighbor and object of his desire, discovers he has betrayed her privacy by documenting her romantic trysts with hidden cameras and microphones that he installed in her apartment. Her attempt to destroy his collection of spy CDs of her results in a disc mixup and Lolo taking the wrong one for trade with the Russian.

Svoboda's computer expert quickly discovers the worthlessness of the CD he's been handed. The exchange is off and panic shooting through the Mexico City neighborhood begins, bringing us an assortment of soon-to-be-involved players. At the pharmacy, tyrannical husband Beto (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is busy trashing his wife Clara (Carmen Madrid), which he follows up by trying to seduce her. This tension goes to another level later, when Tomson brings armed and wounded Nene to the pharmacy for bandaging while Beto is upstairs taking a shower.

Down the street, gentle barber Goyo (Rafael Inclan) and witchy wife Carmen (Rosa Maria Bianchi) turn out to be part of dying Sv˘boda's escape plan but when Carmen overhears him on the phone saying things like, "... stuffed the diamonds" and "... belly," she sees holidays and high living in her future and she's not above some desperate and disgusting means of realizing her visions.

The opening sequence of Lolo's shenanigans with Andrea is a tedious mini-movie of its own that this screenplay, written by Martin Salinas out of three short movie ideas, should have done without. But, once Lolo is out of his apartment and into Nene and Tomson's caper, Nicotina finds its bearings. Known at home by its Spanish title, (translating roughly to "Cigarettes, Alienations, and 20 Diamonds"), it comes off as an updated Latin take on "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998), itself a derivative of "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1960). Despite that line of inheritance, a dumb sub-theme that bears no relationship to anything except part of the Spanish title, and dated visual techniques like multi paneling and screen wipes, its parody of bad intentions provides its own unique sources of rib-tickling fun and an endearing observation of common traits and unwholesome character.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  



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Jesus Ochoa, Diego Luna and Lucas Crespi
When a deal gone bad gets oh so lethal
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