Tackling cliché head-on

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The majority of movies about sport tend to focus on the tired old fairytale of the kid from dirt-poor origins whose natural talent makes him a legend. But one of this week's film highlights, Rudo Y Cursi (out this Friday), subjects that same fairytale to some tough-eyed scrutiny.

It's the debut feature by Carlos Cuaron, who co-wrote Y Tu Mama Tambien with its director, his brother Alfonso, and so earned this shot at realising his own script. The picture reunites those talented Y Tu Mama alumni and real-life amigos Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, in the tale of Beto and Tato, two hicks from a banana plantation who dream of pro-football. An affably sleazy talent scout, Batuta, plucks them out of a weekend kick-about on a dirt field, securing their passage to Mexico City. They acquire contracts with rival big-league teams, as well as rival nicknames:Rudo (“Tough”), and Cursi (“Corny”).

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If you happened to see 2006’s Goal! (which licensed the colours of my beloved Newcastle United for its stock account of a Mexican lad done good) you may think you’ve got the measure of Rudo Y Cursi on the strength of its modestly realistic opening reel. But Cuaron’s film steadily twists into an entirely scabrous and satirical moral tale, with a comic energy generated by its heroes’ sheer stupidity and cupidity.

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Cuaron makes a point of hardly showing us a football being kicked unless the plot absolutely demands it. Instead Cursi fritters his talent trying to be a pop singer and marry a TV bimbo, while Rudo wastes his on high-stakes poker and cocaine (plumbing the depths of fatuity when he insists of the latter, “I just use it to gamble, because it helps me win...”) The teams’ deluded fans know nothing of this depravity, for Rudo kisses the club badge on his shirt even as he prepares to throw a vital match. The real star of the movie is its narrator Batuta (the Argentine comedian Guillermo Francello), a rascally expediter of “dreams”, forever extracting his 15 per cent.

Rudo Y Cursi sprints through its running time: every plot-turn is semaphored, yet one is never bored. Finally, though, even the brilliant Cuaron can’t resist the cliché of the drama all hinging on the dying seconds of the big match. By Esquire's film critic Richard T Kelly