In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb wildlife

Wildlife

One never senses judgment from Dano, Kazan, Gyllenhaal, or Mulligan—they recognize that there’s beauty even in the mistakes we make in life. It’s what makes…

Thumb halloween poster

Halloween

Do you know the biggest sin of the new Halloween? It’s just not scary. And that’s one thing you could never say about the original.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

The Padre

The Padre Movie Review
  |  

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A British con man in Mexico, dressed as a priest, is being relentlessly pursued by a very hell-bent old Yankee seeking a retribution he calls justice. Complicating matters for both is a feisty young reprobate with plans of her own.

Things seem even more familiar when you cast Nick Nolte in the role of the hell-bent Yankee and Tim Roth in the role of the not-as-sly-as-he-thinks fox. Known as “The Padre,” Roth’s character is on the run for reasons directly connected to his relationship with Nolte’s Nemes, who sports a huge scar on his face. That Nolte’s character’s name is “Nemes,” so close to “Nemesis,” is an indication of how subtle the script by Stephen Kunc is. In case you’re hazy on the dynamic, late in the game Nolte growls at Roth, “My hate is a spear aimed at your heart.” I wonder if one reason average people aren’t inclined to read “Moby Dick” nowadays is because they’ve heard so much of it recycled as melodramatic movie dialogue.

Advertisement

The complicating factor is Lena, played by Valeria Henriquez, who’s trying to quit Mexico for the U.S., albeit not for an entirely conventional reason. Now in her late teens, she’s learned a trick or two; the film’s opening scene has her trying to bribe, without success, a passport office official for a visa. Stumbling upon the scamming Padre just as he seems about to fall into Nemes’ clutches, she piggybacks on his car-thieving escape.

The movie is tolerable during the pursuit, even if the leads are playing roles that are clearly reprises if not retreads of past glories for them (Nolte recalls the cranky cops of the “48 Hours” movies, while Roth essays a less frantic variation on any one of the hoodlums he’s played on and off since the 1990s). And speaking of retreads, Luis Guzmán is here too, playing Nemes’ for-hire sidekick, and here, too , is familiar ground for the actor. Newcomer Henriquez is appealing, and her character’s search for a father figure, or something, is not unconvincingly portrayed. Lena comes from poverty, and in one scene she marvels at a motel swimming pool; another girl her age sniffs that the pool is crummy, and that she can’t believe she has to stay in such a hole, and Henriquez portrays Lena’s slight humbling with commendable nuance.

Director Jonathan Sobol has an apt if not avid eye for gritty and colorful locations, and when the movie is at its most loose-limbed it’s a pleasure to watch. But around the time the director resorts to a trunk-point-of-view shot that’s turned into a not-terribly-flattering imitation of “Pulp Fiction,” “The Padre” begins to take itself more seriously than the wafer-thin back stories of the opposing characters should allow. Given that the viewer is more likely to gravitate toward an investment in Lena than in either of the grizzled fellows, the question of which of them is most likely to be redeemed becomes almost academic by the time the script starts breaking out the Melville quotations. In a sense it’s pleasant to see Nolte, Roth and Guzmán settling into their roles as if they were old slippers, but these great performers aren’t completely outfitted to settle for Greatest Hits work. Are they?

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix’s Terrifying, Moving The Haunting of Hill House is Essential Viewing

A review of Mike Flanagan's new horror series based on the Shirley Jackson novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" Gets the Deluxe Treatment from Criterion

An epic essay on an epic comedy of the 1960s, now given deluxe treatment on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion.

Danson's Racist 'Humor' Appalls Crowd at Roast

NEW YORK It's a tradition of the celebrity roasts at the Friar's Club that everything goes - that no joke is in such ...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus