Alvaro Brechner’s drama takes place in Uruguay during the early 1960s. Small-time promoter “Prince” Orsini travels about the country staging wrestling bouts for Jacob van Oppen, an East German émigré whose athletic halcyon days have been replaced with alcoholism and obscurity.
The duo arrive in a town that Orsini dubs “a hole in the middle of nowhere” and begin to ply their well-worn routine of arranging for a local competitor to be paid to meet van Oppen in a rigged match. In this case, however, Orsini’s scheme slowly falls apart – and the results are no surprise, owing to a pre-credit sequence that previews the results of the disastrous wrestling bout.
Gary Piquer is wonderfully oleaginous as Orsini, and the film works best when he is working his delightfully atrocious scams. Yet Brechner never allows Piquer to travel at full-throttle – the film’s pacing is much too leisurely, which blunts the impact of the inevitably chaotic climax. Even worse, the film never makes proper use of Jouko Ahola, a Finnish champion in the World’s Strongest Man competitions who is cast as the broken-down wrestler. Ahola, who already showed his acting chops in Werner Herzog’s “Invincible” (2001), is a physically commanding presence and he is effective in capturing the emotional depths of his character. Yet Brechner keeps him off-screen for too much of the film, even though he is supposedly the center of attention.
In the end, the film is a lopsided work that never truly keeps its focus – which is a shame, because there’s a great story buried inside the shambles.