As the success of both “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” proves, music sagas about turbulent fame and tragic ends are an endlessly hummable refrain for moviegoers. In Argentina, the legend of energetic Córdoban singer Rodrigo — a class-bridging phenomenon of the sexy, fast-paced dance-hall style called cuarteto, whose life was cut short at 27 — seemed ripe for said treatment, and has now been turned into a splashy, music-drenched rise-and-fall biopic called, outside of Argentina, “El Potro: Unstoppable” (after the singer’s nickname).
It’s an eminently missable, cliché-ridden affair, though, unless your cumbia-themed wingding needs something on in the background that colorfully combines ’80s/’90s fashions and hairstyles, sweaty sex, sweatier club performances and the kind of melodramatic acting whereby a hotel bathroom is both the scene of an orgy stumbled upon by his suffering wife Patricia (Malena Sánchez), and where drug-addicted Rodrigo (Rodrigo Romero) holds himself later, crying, after a meltdown.
The early scenes of a long-haired wannabe handled by his hard-working manager dad (Daniel Aráoz) and doting mom (Florencia Peña) are, under director/co-writer Lorena Muñoz’s uninspired assemblage, barely engaging save its curious portrayal of Rodrigo as something of a naive twit. Then, when he strikes it big, he’s just a hedonistic jerk of a husband/father until he can be redeemed long enough for a boxing-themed concert comeback. The music is, naturally, a zesty, insistent heartbeat, but even the subject’s cultural importance selling a regional music to the masses is barely explored — too much of “El Potro” thinks vice is spice.
‘El Potro: Unstoppable’
In Spanish with English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Playing: Available on Netflix