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  Don't Tempt Me Souled Out
Year: 2001
Director: Agustín Díaz Yanes
Stars: Victoria Abril, Penélope Cruz, Demián Bichir, Fanny Ardant, Juan Echanove, Gael García Bernal, Emilio Gutíerrez Caba, Cristina Marcos, Gemma Jones, Bruno Bichir, Elena Anaya, Peter MacDonald, Alicia Sánchez, Luis Tosar, Elsa Pataky, Ángel Alcázar
Genre: Comedy, Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The balance between Heaven and Hell has never been more one-sided towards the infernal, but what led Lola (Victoria Abril), a representative of up there, and Carmen (Penélope Cruz), a representative from down there, to team up and stage a robbery? For that reason we have to go back a couple of months, and see the boxer Manny (Demián Bichir) who has recently lost his last fight - it will be his last due to doctor's orders, as he now has brain damage and another few rounds could kill him. But as he might be dying soon, he will have to be claimed by one side or another of the Afterlife, which is why Lola and Carmen get involved...

Don't Tempt Me was a little curio from Spain, teaming up two of that country's most famous and attractive female stars for a battle of wills over the soul of a man worthy of neither of them. It fit into the mould of afterlife fantasies of yesteryear, only with a harder edge, which meant more swearing and adult references, although not so much that it was particularly extreme. It was as if director and writer Agustín Díaz Yanes was still feeling respectful to the religious background that he drew his story from, so did not wish to make things too offensive even with such scenes as an attempted rape thrown into the mix.

Both Abril and Cruz were having fun playing agents of God and the Devil respectively, and their characters got to discuss the pros and cons of the saving (or damning) souls business in lightly metaphysical conversations, but overall it was not too clear what this film wanted to be. It sounds like it should have been the basis for a frothy comedy, but the way it went on you'd think you were watching a domestic drama that kept getting distracted by the possibilities of what happens to us after we die. It didn't help that Manny, on whose head the fate of Heaven and Hell apparently rested, was not much of a catch for either side.

Lola introduces herself into his life posing as his long lost wife, and he welcomes her with open arms but soon is acting abusively and callously towards her. She has been sent away from her nightclub singer's job in Heaven to assist on Earth, and thinks that if she brings Manny together with his estranged mother then she will have saved him in time for his inevitable demise. On the other hand, there's Carmen, essayed by Cruz as a butch lesbian with the walk to go with it (we find out why she acts like this at the end), who poses as the boxer's cousin and urges him to go back in the ring before the angel gets the chance to set a place up for him with the rest of her kind.

There is a notable lack of special effects in this, which in a way is refreshing, and leads to innovations in other areas as well as a few digs at Spain's European neighbours, so that the wishy washy (and monochrome) Heaven is pretty much France, complete with Fanny Ardant calling the shots (although not actually playing God) and Hell is England, where Carmen has been relegated to with everyone speaking English, including the Satanic Gael García Bernal, who runs things there under the alias of Jack Davenport (and a very odd approximation of a Cockney accent to boot). The main issue that will be troubling you is that while you like Lola and Carmen, Manny is an utter jerk, and not much of a catch either way, so you can have trouble caring about the outcome. On the plus side, you do get to see Cruz dancing her way through Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas, though on the minus side, this needed a lot more pizazz outside of the two leads. Music by Bernardo Bonezzi.

Aka: Sin noticias de Dios
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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