At first Intacto seems to overlap considerably with The Cooler, though it goes in a very different direction and has a very different feel to it.
The premise of the movie (sort of, but more on this below) is that “luck” is a supernatural force that some people have more of than others, and that this luck is somehow transferable, that lucky people can drain other people of their more limited luck. This can be done by touching them, by wagering against them and winning, or even by winning their photographs from whichever lucky people currently hold those photographs.
Lucky people who don’t fully understand that they have these powers are identified and recruited by others who are already aware of this supernatural stuff, who then serve as managers and mentors of sorts to guide them through high stakes competitions where the lucky people get together to establish who’s the luckiest of the lucky.
These competitions are consistently bizarre. The simplest one is a one-on-one Russian roulette type game where the contestants shoot at each other until they get to a chamber that has a bullet in it and one is killed (presumably establishing which has the greater luck). Others include one where a half dozen or so blindfolded competitors run at full speed through a forest until all but one (the winner) have been killed or seriously injured by running headlong into a tree.
The movie is pretty darn obscure on a lot of points, so I’m not a hundred percent sure that what I’ve written so far is fully accurate. I picked it up gradually and uncertainly as the movie went along (and frankly may not have gotten even this much if I hadn’t read descriptions and reviews of the movie in advance to know what to look for.)
Plenty of the details of the plot I didn’t fully get. I pretty much understood that one character had had a falling out with the current “champ” (a Nazi death camp survivor) and had had his “luck” drained by him, and now was trying to recruit a new challenger to help him get his revenge, but for instance I found the whole thing about the female cop to be confusing. Evidently she’s one of the “lucky” people herself and has at least some awareness of the underground world of weird competitions and such, while also independently investigating one of the participants for conventional crimes (bank robbery specifically). So she’s sort of trying to catch him, sort of trying to compete in this world of lucky people herself, maybe trying—like that other character—to get some kind of revenge for something that happened to her before in that world, but I’m not at all sure.
There are numerous elements of this “luck” phenomenon that don’t add up to me. One, there’s an implication that an efficient way to identify people with the most of this “luck” is to seek out unlikely survivors of horrible accidents and such. So, the only survivor of a plane crash, the only inmate still alive at a Nazi death camp when it was liberated, etc.
But wait a minute. Granted the plane crash survivor is luckier than the people who died in the plane crash, but wouldn’t it be luckier still to never have been in a plane crash (or in a Nazi death camp)? Why is it luckier to survive close calls than not to have had close calls?
Next, why are the super lucky so exceedingly stupid? If you had these powers, would you do nice safe things like win millions of dollars at casinos whenever you please and treat yourself to an awesome life, or would you seek out the tiny number of people who are comparably lucky and risk your life against them over and over in inane Fear Factor-type stunts?
There’s a suggestion in this movie that realizing one has this supernatural gift leads to an ego-driven obsession to prove that one has more of it than anyone else in the world. But why?
I’m not saying it’s impossible to imagine anyone being wired like that. I know good poker players who for ego reasons would much rather butt heads with other good poker players to establish who’s best than to make a lot more money beating up on squares. But that’s the exception rather than the rule. Plus even in those cases, we’re not talking about people entering into 13 Tzameti-style competitions where everyone but the winner dies.
But also, is there in fact anything supernatural happening in this movie after all? Let’s say the movie instead were described as being about a bunch of delusional people who falsely believe in this supernatural phenomenon. How would it be any different?
Now there’s a very, very small amount of evidence or implication early on that it’s real, that for instance some of these people have “cooler” type jobs touching casino patrons to take away their luck, where before the touching they win and after the touching they lose, and if indeed that happens consistently in a statistically significant manner then there may be something here.
But as far as the bulk of the movie, as far as these competitions, nothing that happens provides any evidence whatsoever for this supposed supernatural force of “luck.”
Think of it this way: If there were no such force, wouldn’t the exact same things happen? Wouldn’t somebody get shot in the Russian roulette game? Wouldn’t somebody be the last to run into a tree? To say the last man standing has more of this “luck” than the others is not justified unless you can show that the outcome would have been different if all such “luck” were removed from the equation.
So even though on the surface this movie seems to be of more hard core supernaturalism than The Cooler, I’d argue the other way. Here the outcomes are attributed to supernaturalism, but in fact with little or no reason when you step back from it and really think about it, whereas in The Cooler, the outcomes really do fit a pattern that would be implausibly coincidental without a supernatural hypothesis.
I’ll also mention that there seem to be strong indications of “deals with the Devil” symbolism and such—the current “champion” lucky guy lives in some sort of basement netherworld beneath a casino with a lot of glowing red neon or something, the winning and losing of photos to represent people’s fate seems very suggestive of souls being traded, etc.—but nothing really happens with that. For instance the champion is in fact a sympathetic character, a sensitive Holocaust survivor who speaks movingly about his experiences. He seems an unlikely stand-in for the Devil.
So I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to get from this film on a symbolic level.
Intacto is one of those movies that kept me reasonably engaged the whole way, but in part not so much because it’s inherently interesting as because it’s obscure and I needed to pay attention to see if it would become interesting. And I don’t know that it ever really does, more than a little. At best this is an OK movie, not one I’d recommend people go out of their way to see.