By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
You might as well call it the Latino “Ocean’s Eleven.”
It is “Ladrón que roba a ladrón”, a new film that opens in San Diego theatres on Friday, Aug. 31st, about a pair of professional thieves whose next mission is to rob a multi-millonaire that sells junk to Latino immigrants.
The target is TV infomercial guru Moctesuma Valdez, a multimillionaire snake charm-er who sells placebos as cures for weight loss, male shortcomings and even cancer.
Their idea is to assemble their old crew of professional thieves and plant them, like a sleeper cell, into the life of their mark, disguising them all as chauffeurs, gardeners, maids, and repairmen. The goal: to rob Valdez right under his nose.
When their old crew of cons refuses to do the job, Alejandro and Emilio assemble a team of exploited Latino workers to use their typical activities to complete the mission.
Produced in Spanish by production company Panamax Films, set in Los Angeles, and featuring actors from South America, Latin America and the U.S., the film represents the incredible diversity of the Latino community. It’s both a fresh, class-conscious spin on the heist genre and a rousing underdog story about the immigrant experience in America.
It includes a set of popular actors taken from the telenovela world: Fernando Colunga, Miguel Varoni, Julie Gonzalo, Gabriel Soto, Ivonne Montero, Saul Lizaso, and Sonya Smith.
“A multimillionaire has security guards and cameras and dogs, but he’ll let the landscapers on his property without thinking twice. In other words, the immigrant day laborers have access everywhere,” said writer José Ángel Hen-rickson. “They’re invisible, and though they’re not educated, it doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent. That’s what makes this different from other heist movies. It’s about taking advantage of being underestimated. That’s the secret weapon.”
By agreeing to take down such an odious man, Emilio, Alejandro and their rag-tag group of day laborers become heroes rather than villains. “This story is about stealing from a thief, hence the title,” said producer Benjamin Odell. “It’s a revenge story where the good guys get even. We wanted the immigrants to sign on for the job not because they wanted to get rich, but to do the right thing.”
Adds director Joe Menen-dez, “To see the immigrants not only thrive, but to later discover they are really Latino Robin Hoods, gives this movie a heart that a lot of people don’t expect.”
Immigrant audiences will be able to relate to the characters on the screen, said producer James McNamara.
“I really liked how this motley group of immigrants could pull together and outsmart everyone. Not only was there lots of action and suspense, but it was really speaking to our audience,” said McNamara, who was born and raised in Panama.
One of the purposes of the producers of “Ladrón” was to create a Latino film that was fun and entertaining, but also that was of the highest quality.
“Latinos rarely get fun, commercial films that are shot on 35mm in big beautiful locations,” McNamara said. “There are some great art house films coming out of Latin America, but we were interested in creating slick, well-made entertainment like the films from ‘La Epoca de Oro’ in Mexico in the 40s and 50s.”
One of the most appealing aspects of the film is the diverse cast. Fernando Colunga is considered Mexico’s and Latin America’s most popular telenovela actor, with recent titles such as “Amor real” and “Alborada.”
“I liked the project because it was about respecting the Latino community, and on top of that the script was fun and entertaining,” Colunga said. “My character, Alejandro, reflects the great potential of every immigrant who is ignored or abused by the system.”
The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. It gives a sample of all the Spanish-language accents out there.
“This film was written by a Mexican-American, directed by a Cuban-American, produced by a Panamanian, a gringo-Colombian and a Mexican American, scored by a Venezuelan and stars actors from Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and the U.S.,” said McNamara.
“It’s about the Latino experience in the United States, but at the end of the day, it’s just a fun and thrilling ride. We’re really proud of it. And I think anyone who likes to see the underdog triumph will like this movie.”