Don't Tempt Me
(Sin noticias de Dios)


             Imagine, if you will, that the new millennium has brought on a crisis in
     the spiritual world. God has become depressed and there's trouble brewing
     between Heaven and Hell. At least that's the concept behind the Spanish
     comedy-drama
DON'T TEMPT ME written and directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes.

             Heaven is overseen by its elegant Director of Operations Marina
     D'Angelo (Fanny Ardant) and, oddly, it resembles Paris. Because she senses
     trouble, Marina visits a sultry nightclub singer Lola Nevado (Victoria Abril)
     who happens to be an angel. Lola is given a tricky assignment: save the
     soul of Manny (Demían Bichir), a boxer with ties to some questionable
     people. Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Well, there's the small
     problem that the denizens of Hell also want to get their hands on Manny
     (for reasons that aren't made entirely clear). So the underworld's leader,
     Jack Davenport (Gael García Bernal) dispatches feisty, tough-talking Carmen
     Ramos (Penélope Cruz) to compete with Lola.

             Confused? Well, you have to pay careful attention to this movie or
     you'll lose all interest in the action. While there's much to admire visually,
     the plot of
DON'T TEMPT ME contains so many twists and turns that one
     almost needs a road map. If anything, Díaz Yanes has overloaded the
     screenplay. I realize that we are dealing with a fictitious world, but the rules
     continue to change. As if he was aware of some of the plot holes, the
     writer-director takes pains to get his characters to accept things on face
     value. For instance, why all the fuss over Manny, a punch-drunk boxer who
     is told one more round in the ring would kill him? Both Marina and Jack
     inform their charges that such matters aren't to be understood but merely
     accepted. By the third act, when people are switching sides and an off screen
     
deus ex machina resolves some of the problems, the audience is left
     confused. Indeed, it's only thanks to the work of the fine cast that viewers
     take any interest in what unfolds on screen.

             Both Victoria Abril and Penélope Cruz deliver strong performances as
     the two women struggling for control of Manny, while fine support is
     offered by García Bernal (although I almost wish they had hired British actor
     Jack Davenport to play the role of Jack Davenport), Gemma Jones and Peter
     McDonald as devious members of Hell, as well as the always reliable Fanny
     Ardant.   

             While the premise of
DON'T TEMPT ME is intriguing (you can't get
     more primal than a battle between good and evil), the execution is a bit
     murky. Díaz Yanes has overstuffed the film and the result has to be
     ranked as something of a bit of a disappointment.

                    

                    
Rating:                   C+
                    
MPAA Rating:          R for language, some violence
                                                         and sexual content
                    
Running time:         108 mins.



                                      Viewed at Magno Review Two.
© 2008 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.