Ladron que roba a ladron

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Lionsgate Films

Taking its cue from an old Latin American proverb that contends, "A thief who steals from a thief will receive 100 years of forgiveness," "Ladron que roba a ladron" is a heist comedy about a heartless crook who is taken down by two former associates.

But the scam doesn't end there.

It doesn't require an eagle eye to see this American-produced, Spanish-language production for what it really is -- an obvious "Ocean's Eleven" knockoff, minus any of that franchise's hip sensibility.

Populated by Latino telenovela stars in a Los Angeles setting, this limited Lionsgate release is facing the tricky challenge of coaxing money out of an audience accustomed to seeing these folks for free, not to mention the fact that moviegoing is traditionally way down on the list of Labor Day weekend activities. DVD definitely would be a better bet.

Directed by TV veteran Joe Menendez from an uninspired script by JoJo Henrickson, "Ladron" follows the exploits of not-quite-reformed thieves Emilio (Miguel Varoni) and Alejandro (Fernando Colunga), who reunite for one big heist.

The target is Moctezuma Valdez (Saul Lisazo), a ruthless TV infomercial pitchman who has made millions shilling worthless personal-improvement products -- from weight-loss creams to cancer-curing elixirs -- to poor Latino immigrants.

Out to prove there is honor among thieves, Emilio and Alejandro assemble a team of actual day laborers to infiltrate Valdez's estate while emptying his gigantic vault and redistributing the wealth.

While the caper attempts to ape the "Ocean's" style -- right down to the credit sequences and Lisazo's passing resemblance to George Clooney -- it proves to be a pale imitation when it comes to sparkling repartee and crisp pacing.

At least give Menendez and his producers credit for delivering an ensemble who look like they stepped right out of a telenovela (with pit stops at the gym and tanning salon) and onto those sunny L.A. sets, where the perpetually blue skies have been dutifully captured by cinematographer Adam Silver.
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