Jogo de Xadrez
Posted April 21, 2015 by Daniel Hodgson in
Jogo de Xadrez is a movie about women in prison, without being a “women in prison” movie. It’s a drama, rather than an exploitation flick; it asks to be taken seriously. It would be better off as exploitation, which is beneath scrutiny.
Priscila Fantin stars as Mina, the prison’s contraband smuggler, similar to Morgan Freeman’s character from The Shawshank Redemption. Martona (Luana Xavier), a towering woman nicknamed “Godzilla” is her friend and protector.
Mina is serving time in a Brazilian prison for her part in a social security scheme, perpetrated by Senator Franco (Antonio Calloni), who betrayed her. The warden (Tuca Andrada) asks for her help in taking Franco down, but she doesn’t trust him, either.
The film’s title translates to “chess game,” which describes the movie’s plot: Mina and the warden try to outwit each other, to see through the other’s intentions. Mina, a perceptive opponent, is able to anticipate attacks against her. That is, except when she can’t. Her characterization is inconsistent in that respect.
As a production, the film has convincing make-up effects. The inmates look like they’ve really been beaten, and they are all filthy, as you’d expect in a place like this. It’s an appropriately gritty-looking film, with the color all but bleached out of every frame.
However, Jogo de Xadrez runs into trouble whenever violence is depicted. Fights break out, as they do in real prisons, but that’s when you become most aware that you’re watching a movie. Whenever someone throws a punch, the actress misses the other person’s face by a mile. The movie asks that we take it seriously, yet the fights look comically fake. Furthermore, Jogo de Xadrez has an incomplete sound design; whenever glass breaks in the real world, it makes an unmistakable sound, yet it’s absent when it happens in this film.
Major spoilers here, but I’ll keep it as vague as I can. The screenplay indulges in dramatic irony for the purpose of exposition when a character reveals herself to be a mole in Mina’s little gang. Consequently, we know exactly where the story is going, which greatly diminishes the suspense.
Overall, the performances are fairly good, but the score is often too melodramatic. Not much more can be said about a movie that’s barely 80 minutes long. At least it’s short—and that is not a positive assessment.
Jogo de Xadrez was recently featured at the Worldfest – Houston International Film Festival.