A while ago, I saw a trailer on a DVD for Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón and immediately thought, “That looks like a Latino Ocean’s 11.” Turns out I was wrong. It’s more like a Latino Ocean’s 13. For me, that’s a very good thing.
The plot revolves around two thieves in L.A., Emilio, who is recently returned to the U.S. by way of a coyote, and Alejandro, a successful DVD pirate. The two, played by Miguel Varoni and Fernando Colunga, are working on a plan to rob Moctesuma Valdez (Saúl Lisazo), a millionaire infomercial guru who made his fortune selling bogus miracle cures to Latinos. When their usual crew proves unavailable or unwilling, Alejandro and Emilio recruit a group of fellow immigrants to help with the heist.
The opening scene establishes what a sleaze ball Valdez is, and also helps distinguish Ladrón from the Ocean’s series. Ocean’s 11 rarely had anything deeper than the heist going for it. In theory, Ocean’s 13 was about punishment for breaking The Code (“You shook Sinatra’s hand!”), but it was really all about the money, in the end. Ladrón mixes social commentary in with the heist, and it gives the picture a satisfying weight.
Granted, the movie does get a little heavy handed in places, and it’s extremely L.A.-centric, but that never detracted from my overall enjoyment of the movie. The message is couched within an immigrant’s point of view, but the themes are universal. The characters feel ignored, denigrated and exploited, and anyone who’s worked retail or food service can relate.
It also helps that the characters are a lot of fun. Rafa, the middle-aged, lead-footed valet. Rafaela, his hot-headed, tomboyish daughter. Miguelito, a Cuban-refugee, wannabe actor. Anival, a pretty-boy, smarter-than-he-looks construction worker. None of them are particularly deep characters, but they’re all a lot of fun. The actors play their characters with such enthusiasm and humor, it’s infectious. Even Moctezuma is despicable and intimidating in the best of ways.
Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón isn’t going to win any awards or start any revolutions, but it’s a lot of fun with just enough weight to feel substantial. If you enjoy heist movies at all, check this one out.