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Review: Don’t Tempt Me

Agustín Díaz Yanes reimagines Dogma but with none of its moral curiosities and certainly none of its humor.

Don't Tempt Me
Photo: First Look International

In Agustín Díaz Yanes’s masochistic Don’t Tempt Me (the original Spanish title, Sin Noticias de Dios, more accurately—and less coyly—translates as No News From God), an angel from heaven (Victoria Abril’s lounge singer Lola Nevado) and an angel from hell (Penélope Cruz’s sexy Carmen Ramos) have been sent to Earth to claim the soul of a boxer. Cute: Heaven is a black-and-white nightclub where patrons and angels speak French. Cuter: Hell is a dirty kitchen where Satan’s minions speak English. Yanes tiresomely equates the struggles between heaven and hell as a series of business transactions between rival corporations. As such, precious screen time is wasted on banal meetings between financial officers from each spiritual realm, what will (and will not) make their respective annual reports, and plenty of talk about corporate buy-outs. Flaubert said, “God is in the details.” But there’s no joy to Don’t Tempt Me’s fictional dreamscape, because Yanes’s tireless detail work isn’t specific enough save for one or two ironic bits—a representative from Heaven, Marina D’Angelo (Fanny Ardant), coddles a copy of the reclusive J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye while contemplating the clarity and mystery of God. In Nevado’s tug-of-war relationship with Ramos, Yanes sees the fine line between good and evil, but while this moral osmosis is certainly interesting to watch, Yanes’s facile game of associations quickly wears out its welcome. The twisty Pulp Fiction-inspired subplot is also far less interesting than the undervalued gender crisis Cruz’s angel must negotiate throughout the film (she tearfully watches a scene from Goodfellas and lip-syncs to “Kung Fu Fighting” before a night on the town). An entire film could have been made about this misogynistic ex-gangster who was sent to hell and subsequently punished by being morphed into an androgynous woman. Instead, Yanes reimagines Dogma but with none of its moral curiosities and certainly none of its humor.

Cast: Victoria Abril, Penélope Cruz, Gael García Bernal, Fanny Ardant, Gemma Jones, Elena Anaya, Demián Bichir Director: Agustín Díaz Yanes Screenwriter: Agustín Díaz Yanes Distributor: First Look International Running Time: 101 min Rating: R Year: 2001 Buy: Video

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