Thursday, January 20, 2022

La Fortuna, on AMC+

Some of these protags could be dubbed “Lara Croft, Civil Service Bureaucrat,” or something like that. An American treasure hunting salvage company, not unlike Odyssey Marine Exploration has discovered a fabulously rich Spanish shipwreck, transparently based on the Our Lady of Mercy. Of course, they want their sweat equity to be repaid with booty, but the dysfunctional Spanish government stakes their legal claim to ownership. Fortunately, their American attorney is the treasure-hunter’s old nemesis in Alejandro Amenabar’s six-part La Fortuna, which premieres today on AMC+.

In the late Eighteenth Century, Spain and England were technically at peace, but sabers were rattling. To prepare for war, Spain recalled the La Fortuna as part of a four-ship convoy, ferrying all the gold and silver they had plundered from the New World, to fill their war-chests. Unfortunately, the British had the drop on them and sunk La Fortuna down to Davy Jones’ locker, where it remained undisturbed, until Frank Wild secretly discovered it off the coast of Gibraltar.

It is a jackpot find, but he tries to be cagey in reporting it, so as not to tip-off the Spanish government. However, Alex Ventura, a rookie foreign service officer and Lucia Vallarta, a stridently left-wing archaeologist with the Cultural Ministry suspect Wild discovered and cover-up the La Fortuna. Of course, they will need some solid evidence if crusty old Jonas Pierce will have any hope of challenging Wild’s claim in Federal court. Awkwardly, there seem to be elements in the Spanish government that want them to fail.

Although based on a real-life incident,
La Fortuna plays out like the worst Clive Cussler novel that he had the common decency to never write. There are tons of scenes in conference rooms and courtrooms, but hardly any undersea adventure. That would be okay of the legal thriller aspects were somewhat thrilling, but they are not. Not at all. Plus, the relentless anti-Americanism goes beyond tiresome to become outright self-parody.

Frankly, it isn’t even warranted. In the real-life case, Odyssey constantly accused the U.S. Federal government of siding against them and with Spain. The most notable U.S. official interceding on their behalf was Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), but naturally, Amenabar never lets facts get in the way of the “narrative” he “constructs.”

Unfortunately, Alvaro Mel and Ana Polvorosa make the dullest, drippiest Tracy & Hepburn pairing possibly ever. Most viewers will start rooting for Wild, because at least he is interesting. The adventurer is played by Stanley Tucci, given free rein to chew the scenery, so there you go. Plus, Clarke Peters is nauseatingly self-righteous as Pierce, even though any informed viewer understands exactly how Spain came by that gold (seriously, do you think they were paying the indigenous peoples “fair trade” wages to mine it?).

According to Amenabar, America is a lawless land of thugs and crooked politicians, but his kneejerk vision is contradicted by the historical facts. The American legal system rendered a verdict for Spain in accordance with the relevant precedents. Amenabar tries to distract viewers from this reality with a number of contrived dangers, but they are so wafer-thin and perfunctory, the later episodes just feel conspicuously padded and dragged out. Not recommended,
La Fortuna starts streaming today (1/20) on AMC+.