Friday, October 8, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Crazy, hazy coincidences

Special to The Seattle Times

A young smoker named Nene (Lucas Crespi) and an older nonsmoker named Tomson (Jesús Ochoa), both amateur criminals, argue as they drive to their latest job. The argument is about the title subject, and it's fairly absurd. Nene is arguing that cigarettes don't kill, that people can smoke for decades and never suffer, and that "different variables have to coincide" before you die of lung cancer.

"Nicotina" is all about variables coinciding. It's about coincidences that kill. And like that absurd-conversation-in-the-car opening, it has a decidedly Quentin Tarantino feel. Ten years after "Pulp Fiction," the world's cinema is still aping him.

The caper is straightforward. Nene's computer-geek friend Lolo (Diego Luna of "Y Tu Mamá También"), hacks into a Swiss bank and downloads account info onto a disc, which Nene and Tomson then deliver to Svoboda, a monumental Russian mobster (Norman Sotolongo), in exchange for diamonds.

Lolo, it turns out, is also obsessed with his neighbor, Andrea (Marta Belaustegui). He spies on her and keeps her boyfriend electronically at bay. Through a series of coincidences, Andrea discovers Lolo's treachery, two discs are mixed up, and the wrong one delivered to the mobster. The Russian bellows, Nene and Tomson suspect the Russian (not Lolo), and, because the Russian's partner reaches to swat a cockroach, guns go off and people begin to die.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"Nicotina," with Diego Luna, Rafael Inclán, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Jesús Ochoa, Carmen Madrid. Directed by Hugo Rodríguez, from a screenplay by Martin Salinas. 93 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated R for violence and language.

Two couples get involved. Before the disastrous meeting went down, Nene had flirted with a pharmacist, Clara (Carmen Madrid), over a cigarette at a drugstore, and — coincidencia — he winds up back there with a bullet wound in the side. Clara is also trying to fend off her idiot boss/boyfriend, Beto (Daniel Jiménez Cacho), who is uptight because he just quit smoking.

For the botched exchange, Svoboda had his haircut interrupted, and he returns to the just-closed barbershop with a bullet wound in the gut. The good-natured proprietor, Goyo (Rafael Inclán), tries to placate both him and Goyo's Lady Macbeth-type wife, Carmen (Rosa Maria Bianchi), who wants Svoboda's diamonds.

The best line in the film is Goyo's. As Carmen imagines the TVs and DVD players they can buy with the diamonds, Goyo exclaims, "See? You're already spending it on crap."

Lines like this don't come often enough. Tarantino's films involve more than simply bringing disconnected story lines together for a little bloodbath. Characters should be sharply drawn; dialogue should be elevated; and the coincidences have to be either believable (the pop-tart popping out of the toaster) or absurdly out-of-the-blue (Marsellus walking in front of Butch's car).

"Nicotina," which won six Ariel Awards (Mexico's Oscars), is not this clever or original. It feels lightweight and forgettable.

Erik Lundegaard:

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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