Todo el Poder: Diverse, Absurd--and Wonderful
Vincent Francone
5/29/2003 9:33:52 AM

Todo el Poder is at once a tale of a modern David battling a huge Goliath, namely the Police department of Mexico City, and it's a delightful comedy. The protagonist, Gabriel, is an out of work filmmaker shooting an ongoing documentary on the subject of crime, a subject he knows first-hand as he has been mugged a number of times. After losing his ex-wife's car--as well as his clothing-- in a large scale hold-up, he vows revenge. Once he discovers that the police are themselves the biggest bandits of them all, his quest turns from noble to downright suicidal.

This the essential story. Todo el Poder might have played out as a simple thriller/revenge tale, but the movie lays on elements to elevate it into something diverse. A love subplot is present, as in many films, and Gabriel's opinionated daughter chimes in often to make everything seem ultimately more human, but as typical as all these elements are the actors manage to find a unique voice for their roles. Nothing feels pat; the dialogue is sharp and playful and the relationships--most notably between Gabriel and his daughter--engaging. It is difficult not to like everyone in this film, including the cartoonish "bad-guy" cop, (an Elvis worshiper/impersonator who conjures Nick Cage in Wild at Heart without the muscles).

The film seems to exist in two places at once: one being very funny and populated by loveable characters, and the other being a dangerous place full of thugs and corrupt cops. Some reviews have sited this as a flaw, but I might suggest that this juxtaposition is itself reflective of the state of the country in which this movie was made. Life in Mexico City seems to be a balance of the absurdly comic and the profoundly dangerous. Perhaps this is why the film has played better in its native land than in ours.

Removed from such scrutiny, Todo el Poder is indeed an enjoyable movie that tackles a lot of ground and does an admirable job. Buried behind the stark intensity of Amores Perros, the high drama of El Crimen de Padre Amado, or the whimsy of Y Tu Mama Tambien, this fine piece of Mexican cinema may fly too low under the radar to make any sort of impact. Sad, really.


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