Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal star as squabbling sibs, rivals in life and on the soccer pitch, whose ambitions extend beyond their humble little village. Beto (Luna) is an intense, risk-taking goalkeeper while brother Tato (Bernal) is a sensitive daydreaming striker. Plucked from jerkwater obscurity by a shady scout (is there any other?) they're forced to face off for a spot in the big leagues.
Tato wins, and his fluid "romantic" style of play earns him the nickname "Cursi," which roughly translates to "showoff," though he prefers singing to scoring goals.
Beto works his way to Mexico City's bright lights, where his badass 'tude earns him the moniker "Rudo," though his gambling debts begin to taint his talent. Neither brother can get around personal demons and distractions, until both careers tumble to one inevitable field showdown.
Rags-to-riches clichés aside, director Carlos Cuarón keeps our interest level high, despite the familiar setup, never letting us guess the outcome. It's a sports movie metaphor; the real action's offscreen until the fateful conclusion. The stars are terrific, elevating the material, and threading the needle between comic fable and brooding tragedy with the grace of Pelé splitting a defense. If Rudo y Cursi doesn't total more than its struggling, born-loser heroes, it's got the heart to play big game.
At the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.