Don't Tempt Me

on August 22, 2003 by Jeff Schwager
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Penelope Cruz is a waitress in Hell. Victoria Abril is a nightclub singer in Heaven. Demian Bechir is a boxer on Earth, and his soul is the object of a battle between a woman who may be God (Fanny Ardant) and the CEO who runs the literal Underworld (Gael Garcia Bernel). Such is the premise of “Don't Tempt Me” (once known as “No News From God,” an amusing and occasionally over-the-top satire from Spanish writer-director Agustin Diaz-Yanes.

As the film begins, Bechir is beaten to a pulp in a prize fight, and we learn that he is in danger of being killed if he fights again. Through machinations too complex and irrelevant for Diaz-Yanes to bother explaining, Abril enters Bechir's life as his estranged wife Lola, who returns to him on the condition that he never box again. Next Cruz turns up as his cousin Carmen, a bombshell of dubious sexuality who is hell-bent on getting him back in the ring. If you've seen the classic boxing movies of Hollywood's golden age (“The Set-Up,” “City For Conquest,” “Champion,” etc.), you can probably guess what will happen next, but part of the fun here is the way Diaz-Yanes plays with the conventions of the genre, subverting them wherever possible while keeping their essential integrity intact.

The rest of the fun is generated by the performers. Cruz does a mean bump-and-grind to the '70s classic "Kung Fu Fighting" in front of her mirror, Abril gets to do a couple of sensational cabaret numbers, and Ardant puts her angelic calm to perfect use. But it's Bernal's satanic CEO who steals the show, looking calm and powder-dry while his minions drip sweat and ask for air conditioning to be installed in Hell's corporate headquarters. He understands that the key to his character is devilish charm, and he uses it to make Satan the most appealing character in the film. Starring Penelope Cruz, Victoria Abril, Fanny Ardant and Gael Garcia Bernel. Directed and written by Agustin Diaz-Yanes. Produced by Gerardo Herrero, Eduardo Campoy, and Edmundo Gil Casas. A First Look release. Comedy/Drama. Spanish and French language; subtitled. Rated R for language, some violence and sexual content. Running time: 115 min

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