Today’s “Around the world with Netflix” adventure is a half-amusing, somewhat brash and certainly chatty, loud and in-your-face Brazilian con-man comedy.
“Get the Grift” or “Os Salafrários” is sprinkled with lively moments that translate across cultures, characters and a plot familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a screen comedy and little bits of social commentary about “corrupt” Brazil and the ways the grifting can sway the gullible.
Subtle? Um, no. Not in the least.
The story is winded and a bit over-familiar, and the dialogue lacks much in the way of “zingers,” but perhaps the subtitling lets the film down in that regard. It’s in Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles, for non native speakers. But “in-your-face” energy makes up for a lot in comedy, and our loud, mugging, stars (Marcus Majella, Samantha Schmütz) deliver that in buckets.
Clóvis (Majella) grew up with “a lot of families,” thanks to his wandering-eye Pop and the various women the kid got handed off to over the years. He’s grown up to be a hustler, a confidence man extraordinaire, with his biggest gift for grift coming from a paintbrush. He’s an art forger.
We meet the adult Clóvis as he’s passing off his latest “masterpiece” to a Senator, who refuses to let his aide haggle down the price with the plump, man-bunned talkaholic. The buyer wants what he wants, and maybe the money he’s playing with isn’t his, Clóvis figures.
Lohane (Schmütz) is the toothy, grinning step-sister whose only goal in life was to become a “micro-entrepreneur.” She grills burgers and chatters the ears off customers from her food-trailer, until the day she falls for the fake “inspectors” who threaten to close her down without bribes. She’s broke, and then her trailer is impounded by the “real” inspectors.
Clóvis, who lives by a sort of “never pay for anything you can con somebody out of” motto, is in a similar fix. You cross the wrong people, your apartment gets looted and the police are on your tail.
Did I mention him bragging that “I managed to sell Christ! ‘Christ the REDEEMER,'” the most famous statue in all of Brazil. Yeah, you’d have to be a special kind of stupid to fall for that.
Still, he “obtains” a car and Lohane begs a lift as they scamper off to a remote resort town to lay low.
Except that “laying low” isn’t in Clóvis’ playbook. He hustles up a hotel room, enlists Lohane in a check forging scheme, and so on and so forth.
“Why not just rob a bank?” she wants to know. He is offended.
“A scammer, a grifter. It’s different from being a ‘gangster.'” I mean, come on.
Clóvis is brilliant at enlisting passersby, strangers and other customers in his causes, downloading a blizzard of blather and BS that convinces bank customers in the lobby to chant and shout down suspicious clerks — “Cash that check! Cash that Check!“
He’s always got an eye for the next angle. He falls in mud and “s–t?” That’s how he’ll get a “refund” from the hotel that he conned into letting them check in without the “deposit” going through. He’ll roll around on the furniture in the lobby, wipe his body on the walls, etc. Blackmail at its simplest.
The picture that emerges of Brazil through all this is of a corrupt, lawless place where everybody hustles, every employee has seen such hustles and only a few have the wherewithal to resist. And even those can be bullied by a mob that takes the hustler’s side.
“It’s every man for himself,” Clóvis is always telling Lohane, who is a quick-enough study. Watch the way she contorts herself to get the perfect “selfie” in a dive-tour shop, a shot that includes the check the model/customer at the counter is writing at that very moment.
“Get the Grift” also has these little interludes, bits of Brazilian and con-artist history Clóvis narrates, like the guy who “sold the Eiffel Tower to a scrap dealer” story.
There’s a “Grease” sing-along, an auction to disrupt, and every time our hustlers get ahead, a calamity takes it all away from them so they have to start over, preying on the less hip as they do.
The physical shtick is limited (more Lohane’s thing) and the cons barely creative enough to hold our interest.
Still, I appreciate the stars’ antic energy even as they’re wearing out their welcome, and quickly.
MPA Rating: TV-14, profanity
Cast: Marcus Majella, Samantha Schmütz
Credits: Directed by Pedro Antônio Paes, script by Fil Braz. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:35