Penalty Kick (La pena máxima) tells the story of a man betting on his national team in the World Cup qualifiers, which provides a confusing lead character and a humourless narrative.
This is utter garbage. Penalty Kick, also known as its original title La pena máxima, manages to suck the life out of football. What a time to do it as well, with the Russia 2018 World Cup producing one of the most memorable tournaments of our time. I was looking forward to watching a relatable movie. To say I was excruciatingly bored would be an understatement. I felt miserable.
In case you are interested in the premise, Penalty Kick is based on the World Cup 2018 qualifiers, when Mexico had a crucial game against the USA. The Americans may want to build that wall but the Mexicans show steel when it comes to soccer skills. Mariano lives, breathes and immerses himself into football, to the point that he is completely unaware of his own personal troubles. With the second leg of USA vs Mexico around the corner, he decides to bet his uncle for the house he lives in, plus stupidly bet his cash reserves that he needs for an apartment downpayment with his boss.
Penalty Kick sounds like an interesting story but it is unappealing on many levels. The movie plays the entire scenario out as a comedy, but really you are witnessing a ridiculous man in his 30s gamble irresponsibly, despite the promises he has made with his beautiful wife. I am not sure what the joke is, if there is one. Penalty Kick overplays the hours leading up to the game with Mariano repeatedly telling the audience its importance. The turning point comes when his uncle dies inconveniently on the day of the game. His family initiate an exceedingly fast turnaround to implement the funeral. Mariano and his brother spend the rest of the movie trying to keep updated on the score, whilst playing out their family duties.
Penalty Kick is not exciting enough for a sports movie. When the film draws to a close I am pretty sure that there are important messages to take away, but Mariano’s reaction makes it abundantly clear that the writers had no real objective. The people behind this movie just wanted a film that celebrated Mexico making it to the World Cup, with no clear principle to the character’s intention, apart from the fact that he just wants to make money from Mexico’s winning ways. All this is clouded by judgemental supporting characters that undermine the lead character. You do not know where to stand with him. Penalty Kick, amongst the ‘comedy’ at times inserts a forced emotional scene showing his girlfriend upset by his actions, which had zero impact whatsoever. I am not sure whether we are meant to like Mariano.
Don’t gamble kids, I think that’s what Penalty Kick wants to tell us. And if you think football is life, then maybe you are right, but fuck your family and friends – who cares.