With Tobacco as a Stimulant, Lovelorn Mexicans Flirt With Destiny

The great theme of the Mexican New Wave—the relationship between chance and destiny—fuels the fast-paced and stylish comic caper movie Nicotina, a film, its co-producer says, about "the darkest part of the cigarette." Unfolding in real time, Nicotina's three separate stories (each one featuring a frustrated smoker) come together during the course of one night in Mexico City.

Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá También) stars as Lolo, a lonely computer hacker who manages to crack a Swiss bank's secret code but still can't make his way into the heart of his lovely cellist neighbor (Marta Belaustegui). A pair of amateur thugs—Nene (sexy newcomer Lucas Crespi) and his aging sidekick (Jesús Ochoa)—team up with Lolo to sell the bank's information to some Russian mobsters. Their paths intersect with those of two unhappily married couples: a meek-mannered barber (Rafael Inclán) whose harridan wife (Rosa María Bianchi) dreams of a more luxurious life, and an irritable pharmacist (Daniel Giménez Cacho) whose long-suffering spouse (Carmen Madrid) has finally (and hilariously) had enough.

Smoking guns: Ochoa, Luna, Crespi
photo: Arenas
Smoking guns: Ochoa, Luna, Crespi

A collaboration between three Argentine-born filmmakers—director Hugo Rodríguez, screenwriter Martin Salínas, and co-producer Laura Imperiale (working with Martha Sosa Elizondo, producer of Amores Perros)—Nicotina has an international feel to it. Its characters are recognizable types (perhaps a touch too much so); its seedy Latin downtown could be just about anywhere. Skillful editing and Salinas's sassy script keep our attention focused, from first puff to last drag. What does it mean? Not all that much, really—just a pleasurable hour and a half passing, like an extended cigarette break.

 
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