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Torrente, saviour of the Spanish film industry

Santiago Segura’s latest film following the antics of a sexist, racist, cowardly anti-hero is breaking box-office records. And there’s even talk of it making the transition to Hollywood.


Lethal Crisis (Crisis letal) is Santiago Segura’s fourth Torrente movie; the actor-director says it will be his last: the character is “killing” him, although it’s not clear whether the Spanish comic is referring to the 40 kilos he puts on for the role, or his chances of ever winning an Oscar.

Torrente 4 trots out the same smutty jokes and seul entendres as its successors, but is made all the more, well, smutty, for being in 3D (That said, this reviewer was surprised, not to say disappointed, that Segura didn’t use the costly Avatar technology at his disposal to shove the abundant breasts and genitalia liberally on display throughout in the audience’s face).

Torrente takes yet another swing at Spanish box-office record.

It’s hardly worth outlining the plot, except to say that our misogynist, racist, and cowardly hero, once again down on his luck, is this time framed for a murder he didn’t commit, and sent to jail. Needless to say, this provides plenty of scope for soap-in-the-shower jokes as Torrente plans his escape and then sets off in pursuit of the man responsible for setting him up. Along the way we are treated to the usual cameo after cameo of minor celebrities, also-rans, and has-beens, among them Paquirrín, the son of Isabel Pantoja and gored-to-death bullfighter Paquirri —who turns in an admirable stumblebum performance—, reality television monster Belén Esteban, sixties movie comic Tony Leblanc, and seventies singer Francisco, to name but a tiny few.

Torrente 4 has already raked in more than €17 million since its launch on March 11, making it the biggest homegrown release ever, topping, yes, you guessed it, Torrentes 1,2, and 3.

In fact the film has made a major contribution to the 134-percent leap in takings by Spanish movies in the first quarter of the year. Thanks to Torrente 4, Spanish films have seen their portion of ticket sales grow from 8.13 percent in the first three months of last year to 21 percent so far this year. Whether those who have flocked to Torrente will be converted to Spanish movies over their Hollywood competitors remains to be seen: of the 201 Spanish films produced in 2010 —66 of which are documentaries— 63 have never been released. Despite Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde’s efforts to prevent the illegal downloading of movies, the problem facing the Spanish film industry remains one of distribution.

DeNiro as Torrente?

But back to Torrente. Unsurprisingly, the quartet of films has barely made an impression abroad. But Segura, who is nothing if not enterprising, has made some important connections in Hollywood while working as a bit-part player: in 2002, Oliver Stone and John Landis announced their intentions to take on the franchise, with Stone talking about putting Robert De Niro in the title role; Landis said Segura would be best. Neither deal came through. For the last couple of years, there has been talk of Sacha “Borat” Baron Cohen taking on the role. Word on the street is that New Line Cinema is interested and has talked with Baron Cohen. Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel, the Seinfeld trio, are now working on a script.

While this reviewer enjoyed the first Torrente movie, which set schlock gross-out humour against some genuine pathos, painting a picture of a Spain still trapped in the seventies —and making Torrente more a figure to laugh at, than with— the enormous success of the franchise is still baffling on a domestic level. Surely by the time the character has been adapted to suit US audiences, nothing will be left of the original except its name.

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Published: Mar 31 2011
Category: Culture, Films
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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