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In Amor Bandido, a First Crush Goes Awry

Photo: courtesy Cinephobia releasing.

On its surface Amor Bandido, an Argentinean erotic thriller from director-writer Daniel Andres Werner, resembles those scores of films from the 1980s and ’90s that, in the wake of Body Heat and Basic Instinct, turned torrid, explicit, usually illicit (in one sense or another) affairs into crimes of passion. They don’t make ’em like that anymore, as the saying goes, in this age of chaste franchise-and-fantasy fare, and as Adrian Lyne’s failed throwback attempt Deep Water proved last year, perhaps they shouldn’t. The steamy erotic neo-noir thriller may simply be a genre whose time has passed.

A young boy and a woman in her thirties embrace.
Renato Quattordio and Romina Ricci in Amor Bandido. Photo: courtesy Cinephobia Releasing.

Don’t tell Amor Bandido. The plot is straight from the cutout bin. Sixteen-year-old art student Joan (Renato Quattordio) is paid little attention by his nouveau-riche, distracted parents. He’s dorky, naïve, and like many a duped male protagonist before him, not a little horny. The object of his affection is soon-to-be-leaving-the-school-for-reasons art teacher Luciana (Romina Ricci), whose presumed sultriness depends on a constantly pursed lip and the occasional crotch grab, which is enough to send poor Joan into a tizzy.

Joan persuades Luciana to take him with her. Together they drive to a love nest in a comfortable country house. Does the boy wonder how she affords it on her teacher’s salary? Nope. Nor does he suspect a thing when she playfully pushes him, fully clothed, cellphone in pocket, into the property’s leaf-strewn pool. Teasing him is her thing, but finally the two get down to what Joan came for: the nasty, and plenty of it. It would seem like a schoolboy’s dream, if a schoolboy’s dream is, really, a weekend sex romp with your older, mildly attractive, oddly behaving art teacher.

A naked woman is shown from the back, astride a bathtub.
Photo: courtesy Cinephobia Releasing.

The fact that Luciana doesn’t want him to leave the property doesn’t bother Joan much until he finds himself waking up alone, barred in the property. A brief escape leads him back to the abode where a stranger (, one Luciana introduces as her brother, turns up, mysteriously injured. The older man bullies and taunts Joan, who soon learns an inconvenient truth: he’s a pawn, a victim, in what is actually a scheme to extort a ransom from his rich father.

Like every standard neo-noir steamer, there are plenty of double-crosses, narrative twists, and sexual escapades here. Some of them even make sense (though more do not). It takes more than half of the film for Luciana’s motives to be revealed, or even hinted at, requiring a significant suspension of disbelief that female art teachers are really on the prowl for underage sex victims (the age of consent in Argentina is 18). When those motives are revealed, they’re less than fully satisfying.

As Joan, Renato Quattordio gives a game performance, whether in the throes of ecstasy or agony. To his character’s credit, once he realizes his situation is dire, he’s clever enough to take steps to escape and vanquish his captors. Rafael Ferro is an excellent bad-guy, full of menacing taunts and glares, not to mention one of the skeeviest handjobs in cinema. Whether you find Amor Bandido convincing may depend on the degree to which you find Romina Ricca persuasive as the femme fatale Luciana. Her character may be too underdeveloped for any actor to salvage, but nonetheless I just couldn’t find any spark or savvy in Ricca’s performance: she seemed tired and resigned more than the sexy seductress the script imagines.

A woman in business attire walks through a hallway.
Romina Ricca as Luciana in Amor Bandido. Photo: courtesy Cinephobia Releasing.

If Werner and co-writer Diego Avalos’ script here fails to deliver the goods, the cinematography and editing are nonetheless strong, especially for what is obviously a modest production. The country rambler and its leaf-strewn pool make for an excellent setting for a tryst-cum-abduction. The flight-and-fight scenes crackle with energy. (The sex scenes are in comparison perfunctory, performed dutifully like obligatory exposition, with neither passion nor purpose.)

Whether the erotic thriller ever makes any kind of significant comeback, I sincerely doubt. Do contemporary viewers want to watch content where a thirtysomething teacher seduces a sixteen-year-old? Little suggests so, and if Amor Bandido finds an audience beyond modest VOD and DVD services, I’ll be proven wrong. But I think it’ll take stronger scripts, more energetic performances, and more convincing characters to get erotic thrillers like this one to connect with audiences.

Amor Bandido is available on DVD from Amazon, Kino Lorber, and Deep Discount, and on VOD from Amazon Prime, Google Play/YouTube, and Vimeo. 80 min., in Spanish with English subtitles.

Written by J Paul Johnson

J Paul Johnson is Publisher of Film Obsessive. A professor emeritus of film studies and an avid cinephile, collector, and curator, his interests range from classical Hollywood melodrama and genre films to world and independent cinemas and documentary.

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