Torrente: El Brazo Tonto De La Ley (Dumb Arm Of The Law) Review
This review based on a DVD provided by the lovely folks at Diabolik.
Santiago Segura's Torrente is quite possibly - and very deliberately - the most political incorrect hero ever put on film. Short, fat, sweaty, dirty and sporting an intense comb over he is the drunken embodiment of every sexist, racist and generally self serving urge known to humanity. An enormous cult figure in his native Spain Segura has now played his incompetent cop in three films, each a massive success in its native land, but with this - the first installment - I'm left wondering if some of the humor simply does not translate.
Torrente is simply a despicable man. Living in a filthy apartment with his crippled father who he forces to beg for change every day, we first meet Torrente in a bar slamming back shot after shot of cheap whiskey before spending a night shift on patrol. We watch as he rolls blithely past a string of increasingly violent incidents, chuckling at the exuberence of today's youth, before stopping a black man and breaking his fingers as a warning for 'street dealing' when, in fact, all the man was doing was some late night grocery shopping.
Torrente's only friend, if you can call him that, is Rafi the neighboring fish monger's son, a weapons enthusiast sporting coke-bottle glasses and a deep desire to be a cop, who Torrente cozies up to in hopes of scoring with Rafi's wildly oversexed cousin. When he stumbles across a drug operation running out of the new neighborhood Chinese restaurant Torrente sees the chance to claim some glory on the force and possibly get off of his lousy patrol beat and so - desperate to keep anyone else from claiming the collar - he recruits Rafi as an unofficial deputy to try and bring down the drug gang single handedly.
Though it boasts some undeniably funny moments Torrente is such an unpleasant character and so thoroughly one dimensional that the joke gets old fast. When his response to every situation is to do the most offensive thing possible it doesn't take a genius to see the gags coming long before they arrive and watching this greasy little man call the restaurant staff Chinky stops being old well before he stops doing it.
Torrente, it seems, falls into the trap that gets quite a lot of transgressive humor. It counts you laughing at the lead character rather than laughing with him and in trying to steer you to that end it simply makes him into an unlikable charicature without any shred of believable humanity. If you're going to go down this road you need to either plant something of the audience in the character so that they are laughing uncomfortably at themselves or go so big that you turn the lead into a walking cartoon. Torrente aims for the second option but too often ends up being simply sophomoric rather than shocking.
The Spanish DVD is formatted for all regions and comes in a letterboxed widescreen format with optional English subtitles and loads of Spanish-only features. The transfer is decent though not spectacular.
Perhaps this is a case of reputation out stripping reality or perhaps the series simply gets better as it goes along. Whatever the case this initial installment of Torrente feels like nothing more than a comedy sketch stretched well beyond the limits of what it can handle. Amusing in spots, but ultimately lacking in any real depth or surprises.