‘Ladron que roba a ladron’ is fun in any language

As a longtime journalist covering the movie business, I’ve acquired a love-hate ‘tude toward the company town. I love movies — I just hate the extravagant system under which studios too often make them.

That’s why I loved Ladron que roba a ladron (To Rob a Thief, or Thieves Who Rob Thieves), new on DVD today from Lions Gate. Shot in So Cal with all its sunny gloss, it’s a lighthearted and lively caper fantasy about good-guy thieves stealing from a corrupt businessman so they can return money he fleeced with snake-oil remedies to those who need it.

The low-budget Ladron is easily as entertaining as any bloated star vehicle called Ocean’s Fourteen, The Italian Nob, or whatever, and without end-credits including endless personal assistants, hair stylists, bodyguards and lawyers. It’s smartly stylized, funny, charming and moves with the assuredness of a cat.

 It’s also spoken almost entirely in Spanish by a Latino cast. Take that, el gato gordo of MGM or whatever studio. The Latinos have beat you — or, at least, matched you — at your own overly grandiose game.

Director Joe Menendez has kept it simple, stupid, starting with adroit casting from large pools of Latino actors, some culled from low-brow telenovellas where they were the crop’s cream. Like the immigrants they play, they are newcomers in America who are trying to make their mark, or at least just survive. Oh yes, there are messages between the lines here, but they don’t detract from simply savoring the film as a comic adventure.

So do yourself a favor and rent or buy the DVD, where again, that’s your humble narrator quoted on the box. (“Worth it in any language.”) What can I say? I loved it!

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