Like many films entered in the Academy Awards International category for 2019-2020, Heroic Losers (La odisea de los giles) deals with the exploitation of working-class citizens by bankers and other rich people. But it is also a comic heist story with the requisite cast of amusing eccentrics and serious characters. Based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Sebastián Borensztein, it stars the ubiquitous Ricardo Darín, who is best known outside Argentina for his roles in The Secret in Their Eyes (winner of the Academy Award in 2010), Wild Tales and Nine Queens. In Heroic Losers, the character of Darín’s son is played by his real-life son, Chino.
Ricardo Darín plays Fermín, a retired local soccer star. He and his wife and friends decide to buy an abandoned grain silo and convert it into a cooperative that will free local farmers from the control of outside market forces. Several people invest whatever they can afford until Fermín and his wife, Lidia, have collected almost enough money to launch the project. Burdened by the possession of so much cash, they visit the closest bank, with the intention of placing the money in a safe deposit box. The bank manager, Alvarado, convinces them to instead use the cash to open an account at his bank. But this is August 2001, and Argentina is in the midst of a financial crisis. The next day, the government imposes a freeze on all bank accounts, which Alvarado clearly knows was about to happen. When the bank closes, Fermín and the others lose everything. A year later, they learn that their cash was transferred to the account of a local lawyer, Fortunato Manzi, and that Manzi has buried their money (and more) in a heavily secured underground vault in a remote country spot.
Fermín and the others hatch a complicated plot to steal the money, justifying their actions by pointing out that it isn’t stealing because the money is theirs. Various subplots, including a tragic car accident, the unappreciated son of a local businesswoman and a love story, don’t work so well. However, the heist itself is well-presented and the film is fun to watch. The comparisons with Ocean’s 11 are obvious, in that a group of old friends make use of their diverse skills to plan and pull off an elaborate heist. However, Heroic Losers also has much in common with the classic Italian heist comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street.