Mario F. de la Vega
Mario F. de la Vega
USA: 17 June 2004 (Los Angeles Film Festival)
2004 Nosotros American Latino Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA) – Best Feature
2005 Independent Spirit Awards – Best Debut Performance: Louie Olivos Jr. (Nominated); Best First Screenplay: Mario F. de la Vega (Nominated); Best Supporting Female: Robin Simmons (Nominated); John Cassavetes Award: Mario F. de la Vega, T. Todd Flinchum, Lisa Y. Garibay (Nominated)
Robbing Peter is a US/Mexican movie that explores the nature of criminality, of what makes a person turn to crime. It offers three reasons in the form of three intertwined stories.
The first is called “Desesperación” (Desperation); an educated man is unable to find legitimate work in Mexico, and meets with a crime boss named Don Epifanio (and his extremely silent partner) to make two deliveries in the US West. We’re never sure exactly what he’s delivering, but we can be pretty sure that it’s something illegal, unethical, and morally destructive. My guess is bootlegged One Direction CDs.
The man is named Pedro, and he is apparently the Peter in the title, based on the old expression “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.” He is flown to his first delivery in a small plane, and is told to return to the airfield after it is done…but of course, we wouldn’t have a movie if everything went according to plan would we?
A la Pulp Fiction, these stories jump back and forth through time and the characters interact with each other, but each story is shown through the lens of one particular character. The second story is called “Furia” (Fury) and it centers on – Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Yes, you guessed it. Paul. Right? Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Paul is an American who has a grudge against Don Epifanio and is spurred by that anger to take one last job from him and exact revenge. Paul also has a dim-witted racist girlfriend who plays a part in this little misadventure.
Did I mention that Paul’s GF isn’t too bright? Truth be told there are no Mensa members to be found in this movie, but she’s a freaking rocket scientist compared to the “heroes” of the third story titled – appropriately – “Ignorancia” (Ignorance). Nelson is a mild-mannered car detailer living in Pacoima, California. One night his big brother Danny shows up with a proposition on how they can make fat stacks. Nelson goes along with Danny, although he doesn’t know exactly what they’re getting into.
This is the funniest of the stories, Nelson is a sad sack who is so grief stricken at his wife leaving him that he can no longer taste food. Danny is a know-it-all who is so stupid that he thinks he’s now a ninja because he paid a guy $500 for ninja lessons. The best scene in the film is where Danny tries to show Nelson a ninja death grip and Nelson actually says it feels good.
Now, let’s be clear about something. Robbing Peter is an independent movie. I mean seriously indie. It’s so indie it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. It’s so indie that, when you see Nelson eating a bag of Doritos, you suspect that he may be bogarting the entire contents of the craft services table. Its so indie that…OK, I got nothin. My point being, it’s a low budget affair.
The acting is all seriously low affect, but that’s in keeping with the dimness of the characters. Things move a little slowly, like a desert tortoise, but you know how much I dig turtles, so I liked it.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
Robbing Peter may not be to everyone’s taste. Imagine Pulp Fiction dialed wayyyyyy back and you have an idea. It’s a good first movie from writer/director Mario F. de la Vega, I hope to see more from him to come. I’m giving it a…
Random Quote Whore Quote:
Robbing Peter is an exocrine, naif, soapolallie of a movie! Louie Olivos Jr. is inferior!!!