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Film review: Don't Tempt Me

Penelope Cruz, left, and Victoria Abril in "Don't Tempt Me."
Penelope Cruz, left, and Victoria Abril in "Don't Tempt Me."
First Look Pictures

As tempting as it is to describe the level of humor in "Don't Tempt Me" as hellish, that's probably giving the movie more credit than it deserves. Although describing anything in this dark comedy as heavenly is even more of a stretch. However, both adjectives may give you at least a general idea of what the film is about.

Despite the one, supposedly "new" concept, or conceit here — depicting both heaven and hell as mismanaged corporations — the main story here has been done to death . . . so to speak. (Think "The Devil and Daniel Webster" in 1941.)

The corporate idea also isn't explored in "Don't Tempt Me" as fully as it should be, and it isn't amusing enough to sustain a nearly two-hour movie.

Known as "Sin Noticias de Dios" in its home country of Spain, the film finds the forces of good and evil at war over the soul of one man, an unsuccessful, glass-jawed boxer named Manny (Demian Bichir). As it turns out, his is the one soul that could swing the balance in the Eternal Struggle.

So both "companies" send their agents to Earth. The supposedly angelic Lola Nevado (Victoria Abril) manages to convince Manny that she's his wife and tries to get him to at least reconcile with his estranged mother. And the tough-talking, demonic Carmen Ramos (Penelope Cruz) pretends to be Manny's long-lost cousin and stirs up trouble between the "couple."

But when there's a coup of sorts in hell, suddenly the angel and demon find themselves working on the same side, as they attempt to force a stalemate to continue the Eternal Struggle.

Filmmaker Agustin Diaz Yanes has some interesting ideas. Unfortunately, casting Cruz as a tough girl is a hilariously bad one . . . though it does lead to the film's one really funny joke, at the very end.

The only person who really seems to be having a good time here is up-and-coming Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, who's terrific as Carmen's scheming, duplicitous boss from hell . . . literally.

"Don't Tempt Me" is rated R for occasional use of strong sexual profanity, violence (gunplay, boxing violence and violence against women, some of it sexual), simulated sex (mostly overheard), brief gore and use of crude sexual slang terms and racial epithets. Running time: 112 minutes.