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Hold Up, The

El Palo

Director Eva Lesmes’ second feature (her first was Put a Man in Your Life) is a comic crime caper with a feminist twist. Lola (Adriana Ozores) works as a cleaner in a bank but dreams of a better life. She assembles a most unlikely team of bank robbers: a formerly wealthy woman who has fallen on hard times (Carmen Maura); a single, pregnant hairdresser (Maribel Verdu); and a boyish street punk (Malena Alterio). The build-up to the improbable robbery is plausible and well-handled, with some gentle humour along the way. The women get the key to the bank safe, but when they find it empty they resort to more subtle tactics, with Lola reinventing herself as a sex-bomb and seducing the bank’s manager.
The performances are excellent, with the expressive but low-key Ozores adding to an already impressive array of credits, Maura revelling in the kind of neurotically driven role she was born for, and Verdu playing Silvia as a convincing mix of sexiness and insecurity. However, the script is not content just to go for the funny bone. There are revelations that Lola left her husband after he hit her and that Silvia’s lover, Enrique (Joaquin Clement), is married. The film takes busy swipes at machista attitudes which are too rarely called into question in Spanish cinema. This is a warm-hearted farce with a political edge.

2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital. 87 mins

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