ROBBING PETER

3 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 98 minutes
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Ever wonder what the cinematic offspring between a pre-”Spy Kids” Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, circa “Pulp Fiction” would be like? Well, wonder no more, and check out “Robbing Peter,” which answers that hypothetical celluloid cross-pollination quite well.

Pedro (Louie Olives, Jr.) doesn’t want to be a criminal, but, desperate to feed his wife and daughter, he sets off for the States on an illicit delivery job for local crime boss don Epifiano (Victor Martinez). After surviving a harrowing small plane ride, Pedro delivers the first of two packages to a couple of bumbling crooks, Danny (Alejandro Pena) and Nelson (Pete Pano). However, when Pedro returns to meet Paul (Joe Keyes), the pilot, he discovers that he’s been abandoned at the desert airstrip.

Pedro eventually learns that Paul has a girlfriend, Shawna (Robin Simmons), who lives nearby, and sets out to find her, hoping that she can lead him to Paul so that he can complete his delivery and go home. As fate would have it, however, he’s accidentally delivered a bag of Shawna’s belongings to Danny and Nelson, forcing them to try to find the oblivious woman as well. Unbeknownst to all of them, Shawna has set out to rescue Paul, who’s in deep trouble after his aborted delivery flight.

Not that “Robbing Peter” is anywhere near as linear as this synopsis would have you believe. In fact, director Mario de la Vega’s dry comedy obviously and heavily borrows its Mobius strip-like structure — as well as its rambling, pop cultural reference-laced dialogue discourses — from “Pulp Fiction.” Throw in a cast of largely Hispanic characters and set the film against an arid American Southwest landscape reminiscent of Rodriguez’ “El Mariachi” trilogy, and the argument that “Robbing Peter” resembles a Tarantino/Rodriguez hybrid becomes that much more obvious.

Like most imitations, this film isn’t as striking as the films from which it’s derived. While this isn’t surprising, it should also be pointed out that it’s not a bad film at all, thanks primarily to Olives, Jr.’s performance as the downtrodden, yet dignified Pedro.

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Papa Tarantino and Papa Rodriquez should be very pleased, indeed. For although “Robbing Peter” steals a little bit from both, it can at least stand on its own two feet.



Posted on October 26, 2004 in Reviews by
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