Four rebellious Mexican teens, fed up with the economic situation of their families, decide to rob the holiest of holy institutions: the multiplex. With The Cinema Hold Up, co-writer and director Iria Gomez Concheiro has come up with a conceit so rich with possibilities, it almost sells itself. What the title and description don’t tell you, though, is that in the two hour movie, about 15 minutes are the actual “Cinema Hold Up.” The rest of the film is a stream of consciousness, slice of life look at the modern youth culture in ways that have been well-covered in modern cinema: skateboarding, marijuana, graffiti, freestyle rap, sex, etc. The Cinema Hold-Up adds nothing new to the teen rebellion discussion and though Concheiro has an extremely confident command of the camera and her actors, the journey to the goal is sorely lacking.

While I felt very strongly that The Cinema Hold Up didn’t quite hold up under the thematic microscope, it’s kind of hard to criticize the film too harshly. The English subtitles were extremely poor, sometimes showing up when no dialogue was being spoken, regular misspellings and full of unclear grammatical mistakes. You could understand the idea of what was going on, but much was probably lost without the minutia. Let that be a minor disclaimer.

Even with that caveat, that doesn’t change the fact that these characters are derivative. We see them walk around, smoke weed, buy drugs, tag walls, smoke more weed, call each other names, and it’s difficult to really get a sense of why, exactly, they are so despondent. The glimpses of home life are minor in comparison and not all that bad.

Once the film finally gets to the event promised by the title, though, it’s actually pretty exciting. There’s nothing too overtly interesting about the hold up other than its setting, but the plan devised by these teenagers does seem plausible. Even then, once it’s over, the film continues for another 20 minutes or so, and falls right back into the same old routine. Smoking weed, graffiti, sex, just with new televisions and better sneakers.

The best thing about the movie is Concheiro’s camera, which moves fluidly and holds on characters – at times – for a little too long, giving the audience time to ponder what exactly they’re thinking. I just wish I would have stopped thinking “He just wants to live without ambition.” The film has ambition, the characters do not, and that really hurts the film.

/Film Rating – 4.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.