"A while back a friend told me that the most beautiful game ever invented began with the severed head of a soldier. And his enemy's brutal kick, the first goal ever - unofficially - scored, as the head flew between two trees. "Dreadful" I said, "That depends" said my friend, "Dreadful for the goalkeeper but for the striker, twas glorious!"
Any film that starts with such a searing insight into what lies at the heart of the "beautiful game" and in the heart of most supporters must be high on the list of football films to see before you die.
The eponymous Rudo and Cursi are brothers, whose real names are Beto and Tato, who play football in a rural league on the sort of pitches that would make the red gravel graveyards many of us played on look like the San Siro. Rudo (slang for hard) is the elder brother who plays in goal while Cursi (pretentious) is the flamboyant striker whose real passion is singing. A chance encounter with a football agent, the Baton, who tells the brothers that while he likes them both he can only take one with him to Mexico City. To decide which brother will take the chance they decide to face off with a penalty. Rudo tells his brother to put it to the right and Cursi obliges because he really doesn't care...sadly for both Cursi puts it to his own right and not his brothers and so it is he who ends up in Mexico City, signed to Amaranto and heading for the big time.
A few months later Rudo is given the chance by the Baton to sign for second division side Nopaleros and is reunited with his brother. At the same time Cursi begins to increasingly resemble David Beckham...highlights in the hair, outrageous clothing and a beautiful celebrity girlfriend Maya (played by the outrageously glamorous Jessica Mas). With the goals flowing and money in the bank everything looks rosy for him, so much so that he is also able to pursue his dreams of being a singing sensation (his singing wouldn't be out of place coming from one of the more deranged X-Factor auditionees!) and he decides to propose to Maya. Rudo has managed to take his team into the top flight and is chasing the shut-out record but has also managed to develop a serious gambling addiction which has plunged him into dangerous levels of debt. With the mob leaning on him for repayment of loans Rudo is in serious danger of having his life ended prematurely.
Cursi meanwhile is suffering from a major dip in form, thanks in large part to his celebrity lifestyle and as the fans turn on him, he is dropped to the bench and he finds out that Maya has moved on to the latest soccer sensation...leaving him alone and desperate. Salvation for both men comes in the shape of their agent who tells Rudo that he will pay off his gambling debts if he makes sure that his team lose their next match...which just happens to be against Cursi and his side! The stage is set for Rudo to save his brothers career, pay off his debts and ensure that everyone lives happily ever after...but this isn't "The Great Escape" and this isn't Hollywood so a happy ending doesn't arrive in the way you would expect.
"Rudo y Cursi" is a terrific look at the sort of issues we all suspect might lurk in the background of professional football and that occasionally slip onto the front pages of the newspapers but it's also a film that has something to say about family, friendship, loyalty and the sort of poverty that forces many young men in the developing world to see sport as the only way out for them and their families. With great performances from Diego Luna (Cursi) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Rudo) who many of you may have seen in "Y Tu Mama Tambien" which was a big hit a few years back as well as some very realistic football and footballing politics this is a comedy-sports-drama that really deserves to be seen by football fans everywhere.