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Friday, March 1, 2013

VALENTINA'S TANGO -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at in 2007.)

VALENTINA'S TANGO (2007) is a "romantic" movie in which the romance is robust and exciting, and not just some flowery fantasy crap out of a Harlequin novel.  When Valentina (Guillermina Quiroga) and Eduardo (Jordi Caballero) take the stage and plunge into one of their steamy tangos it's almost like watching them have sex as they express the depth of their passion for each other through dance. 

It helps that Guillermina Quiroga is not only a world-renowned dancer but also one way-hot Latin mama.  (I distinctly recall the word "WOOF!" coming to mind the first time I saw her onscreen.)  And when we discover that the act of dancing the tango with Eduardo causes her to experience what is colloquially known as the "Big O", she makes us believe it.

But this is just part of an involving and constantly surprising story that revolves around Valentina and Eduardo's nightclub and their efforts to keep it from falling into the hands of a sleazy local mobster.  They have two sons--Eddie (George Perez), who is torn between his impending entry into the priesthood and his love for the beautiful Tina (Dianna Miranda), and Victor (Jack Rubio), a no-scruples sleazeball who also loves Tina and, even worse, wants to be a mobster himself. 

Naturally, complications ensue.  Victor rapes the passed-out Tina one night and gets her pregnant, but she thinks Eddie's the father.  Victor gets engaged to Tina, who still loves Eddie, which enrages Victor's volatile ex-girlfriend Vicky (Yelba Osorio).  The mob keeps breathing down Eduardo's neck, and when he's shot down by a mysterious assailant one night while performing onstage with Valentina, he not only loses ownership of the club but also ends up in a wheelchair.  This hits Valentina like a ton of bricks and she goes on a fast downward slide into self-destructive madness that throws the lives of everyone around her into turmoil.

VALENTINA'S TANGO explores the eroticism of dance in a way that DIRTY DANCING and all those crappy Lambada movies could only aspire to, without ever lapsing into the mushy or maudlin.  The fact that the tango is so intensely ingrained in Valentina's being makes it an integral part of the plot.  When the wheelchair-bound Eduardo and his sons try to ease her despair by finding a substitute partner, their efforts fail in all sorts of bad ways--especially when Eddie joins her onstage one night and, to her overwhelming shock, she experiences the same feeling that I referred to colloquially a few paragraphs ago.  Which, needless to say, is awkward for everyone concerned.

There's a lot of humor in this movie, but it comes naturally out of the situations and is never overly jokey or "zany" (although references to Valentina's rubber ducky come close).  Yelba Osorio is delightfully abrasive as the yakky loose cannon Vicky, even when she's tied up and being threatened with death by the mob.  All the various moods of the story are well-balanced, especially considering how dark much of it gets later on.  More than anything, it's a tragic love story in which an obsessively devoted couple is destroyed by the conflicting extremes of their diametrically-opposite sons. 

Handsomely-mounted by writer-director Rogelio Lobato, with an erotic, suspenseful, and unpredictable story--plus an excellent cast and some great dancing--VALENTINA'S TANGO  is well worth watching even if you don't usually go in for romantic movies.  It's as though a chick flick and a guy flick did a tango and had a kid that could sweep Jennifer Grey off her feet and kick Patrick Swayze's ass at the same time.

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