Calming down some from his 2010 gonzo freakout The Last Circus, Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia teams up with scribe Randy Feldman for a possibly radical experiment: to see what happens when the writer of Tango & Cash tries a Billy Wilder-style satire. The export-ready mixed result straddles a narrow line between accessible and forgettable. Spanish TV comedian José Mota plays a jobless adman whose dire straits and wistful memory-lane meandering prompt a freak accident and consequent media frenzy, leaving our hapless protagonist splayed, Christ-like, among the scaffolds of a freshly unearthed ancient Roman amphitheater. Rendered immobile on account of having his head impaled, but otherwise lucid enough to hire an agent for negotiating endorsement deals and interview rights, he takes well to the modern blood sport, discovering the dubiously transformative power of surrendered dignity. Naturally, this further strains his marriage to an otherwise very understanding wife, played well by Salma Hayek. Iglesia's slick and frisky direction stirs up some hearty stock-character performances, stoking and stretching out the tension, but it all still feels like black comedy by the numbers, neither sharp nor subtle enough, and ultimately less an incisive critique of spectacle-mongering inhumanity than in fact a prolonged display thereof. Family is the truest wealth, insists a strenuous orchestral score, but neither Feldman nor Iglesia seems to buy it, so how can we?
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