Airbag (Juanma Bajo Ulloa, 1997)


Airbag, directed by Juanma Bajo Ulloa (1997).

Score: silly, irreverent and politically incorrect.

Okay, so this is the most morally depraved film I had the honour to watch as a pre-teen. I rewatched it yesterday during a re-airing and the first thing I wondered is how my parents let me watch that.

The movie opens with Serafín (Karlos Arguiñano [1]) attending and ruining a rigged game of Russian omelette organized by the mob. The money he wins goes to fund his son’s wedding. A few days before the wedding, Pako (Alberto San Juan) and Konradín (Fernando Guillén-Cuevo) decide to take the groom, Juantxo (Karra Elejalde), to a brothel for their stag party. Though he’s reluctant at first, Juantxo ends up going upstairs with a faux-Cuban prostitute (Vicenta N’Dongo), then he misplaces his engagement ring during a session of anal sex. The three friends try to retrieve the ring, but it has been snatched by the owner of the brothel, mobster Villambrosa (Francisco Rabal). On their crazy road trip from brothel to brothel trying to retrieve the ring, they get mistaken for Fátima Do Spirito Santo’s (Maria de Medeiros) gang and their car’s airbags are fitted with a huge stash of cocaine, adding persecution by inept Galician mobster Pazos (Manuel Manquiña).

The comedy comes from the juxtaposition of silliness and crude situations. The three friends visit brothels and casinos, mingle with the mob, corrupt police officers and pedophile politicians, who are all ridiculously incompetent: so much so, that the three friends are constantly praised as being “professional and dangerous”.

The first half is better than the second, and it all stalls a bit in the middle: the scenes in the luxury brothels could have been shorter and gone more to the point. Between the point when the three friends run away with the cocaine and the two gangs parley, pretty much nothing happens. Also the resolution of the different conflicts is not maybe too silly but too lazy, except for the Russian roulette and wedding scenes. The dialogue has some really classic moments, such as “hondanadas de hostias”, “somachigún”, “centollos en este tiempo no”, “el cuerpo es un misterio”, the business English for prostitutes audio tape, the scene with the two members of Guardia Civil…

The acting is quite natural, a milestone in Spanish cinema, and the main actors manage to be hilarious while staying contained. Technical aspects are good (it even won a Goya for special effects), the only problem I have with them is sometimes the music is too loud and muffles dialogue.

This was the highest-grossing Spanish movie until Torrente came out, and looking at it from an international perspective it’s weird as fuck. I guess it’s an indication of what we are as a culture.

[1] This is even funnier when you’ve grown up watching his cooking show where he also tells jokes and sings dirty songs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s