March 12, 2020  (Web Review)

Museo

Kino Lorber, 126 min., in Spanish w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $34.99, Jan. 21

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Alonso Ruizpalacios’ sophomore feature deals with the real-life theft of a cache of Mayan treasures from Mexico City’s Museum of Anthropology on Christmas Eve in 1985, but it takes substantial creative liberties in depicting the perpetrators, employing the heist to construct a cautionary tale about the power and poignancy of patrimony. As in real life, the thieves are a couple of slacker veterinary school students, but largely fictionalized versions of the originals with serious daddy issues. Juan (Gael García Bernal) is the son of a doctor with a large, raucous family that, in his view, treats him as a failure. His sad-sack friend Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris), whose father is ill, is initially reluctant to participate, but ultimately he gives in and the job succeeds—though not without tense moments. What follows is a surreal road trip as the two try to dispose of the loot. The effort takes them to a dodgy friend (Bernardo Velasco), a tour guide at a Mayan pyramid site, who puts them in touch with a wealthy British collector (Simon Russell Beale). When he informs them that the items are too famous to fence, Wilson retreats to Mexico City while the reckless Juan takes off for Acapulco. In the last act, the move toward unreality accelerates as Juan links up with an exotic dancer and goes gamboling with her along the seashore. In the end, the script turns serious again, but though the tonal shifts are often jarring, Museo exhibits flashes of imaginative brilliance that make it fascinating if uneven. Recommended. (F. Swietek)