The best thing about writer-director Elia Petridis' film The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez is that it gives film fans the chance to see the late Ernest Borgnine in his last acting gig (he died in July of this year) and to see that he clearly relished every opportunity to perform. Unfortunately, the film surrounding him is a pulseless homage to spaghetti westerns; it fuses tropes from that genre with a flatly conceived contemporary family dramedy. Borgnine plays retired radio DJ Rex Page, a casually racist man who always dreamed of being a Western movie star. He whiles away his twilight years watching his favorite old film over and over, repeating dialogue along with the hero. A back injury lands him in an assisted living facility, and he finds himself up against the home's villainous owners and head doctor (who all but twirl mustaches), and a Latino staff of nurses and orderlies who seem powerless against their evil superiors. As is often the case with Hollywood filmmakers who try to portray the Latino community in a positive light, the goal is saintly men and women but the result is docile characters who come off like doormats. The larger problem is that Petridis can't pick or ably sustain a tone-- tongue-in-cheek, wide-eyed sincerity, or whatever-- and the ensemble's acting styles veer from knowingly over-the-top to self-conscious and stilted, with none really engaging the audience.
Elia PetridisErnest Borgnine, Barry Corbin, Carla Ortiz, Arturo del Puerto, Tony PlanaElia PetridisDarren Brandl, Dave O'Brien, Elia PetridisIndican Pictures