Netflixable? Remembering a Spanish Bankrobber and Anarchist, “A Man of Action”

This isn’t Lucio’s first scrape, and the fact he’s wearing that “Lookatme, I’m an anarchist!” beret tells us this man has never sold out and never denied who he is. They effect an amusing escape — not his first, not their last — and we’re off.

We see teenaged Lucio entrusted with begging the local bank for a loan for medicine that will allow his dying dad to pass in peace a couple of years after the Spanish Civil War. The locals don’t trust “Republicans,” the leftists who lost, and that includes the banker. Pulling a knife on the guy just makes Lucio wet his pants.

There’s nothing for it but to accept his draft notice and desert Franco’s fascist military the first chance he gets. That’s how he ends up in Paris, leaning on his now-married sister (Ana Polvorosa) and her French mint employee husband (Fred Tatien) until he can get on his feet.

Construction work is all he’s qualified for, and it’s while learning the ropes as a brick layer that he has his political awakening. His co-workers ask him a lot of questions about his opinions and his politics, and all he can say is “I don’t know.”

Well, you don’t take orders and you don’t like authority. Hijo, you’re an ANARCHIST. A quick history lesson later, and he’s attending meetings, getting irritated at the wishy washy ways this affront or that outrage is being protested. That’s how he falls in with tall, dashing and action-oriented Quico (Miki Esparbé). Quico robs banks.

One pants-wetting robbery later and Lucio is sold. He will “expropriate” bank money — not stealing from the customers. Quico teaches him how to distribute the loot — one third to “the movement,” one third to “comrades in jail, and their families” and one third they keep for themselves.

Lucio is all-in, robbing from the all-powerful capitalist construct that “creates inequality” in the world and keeps poor people poor, gaming a system built wholly for the bankers’ benefit. His views and action oriented dash are catnip to the activist college coed Anne (O’Prey) he pursues.

“I don’t play around,” he growls (in Spanish with subtitles, or dubbed English). “I don’t compromise.”

But robbing banks isn’t the smart play. Buying a print shop so that they can turn out posters and pamphlets without police interference points these anarchists in a new direction — counterfeiting.

You’d think director Javier Ruiz Caldera, who has experience in the action comedy genre (“Spy Time”), would have a lighter touch with all this. “A Man of Action (Un hombre de acción)” has every ingredient necessary for a classic action comedy bio-pic, including the dogged French police inspector (Alexandre Blazy) who hounds our hero for years, trying to catch him in the act.

“Man of Action” is at its best in action. But when it’s inactive, it lumbers along, with Ballesta giving Lucio enough dash but not enough playful twinkle to compensate for that sluggish pace.

The capers are simple and daring, the hero charismatic and the story a fascinating piece of leftist history, many of them Spaniards continuing to fight the idealistic Spanish Civil War against the banks of France and later America.

But the fact that “A Man of Action” barely clears for take-off is the one crime here we cannot pardon.

Rating: TV-MA, violence

Cast: Juan José Ballesta, Luis Callejo, Liah O’Prey, Alexandre Blazy and Miki Esparbé

Credits: Directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera, scripted by Patxi Amezcua. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:51

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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