Alonso Ruizpalacios (Mexico, 1978) debuted with Gueros (2014), shot in black and white.
Museo/ Museum (2018) is a heist thriller with philosophical ambitions,
based on a real event (on Christmas Eve 1985 thieves stole about 150 artifacts from Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology).
It is mostly the
portrait of a dumb loser who thinks he's smarter than everybody else, in particular smarter than his conservative, hard-working father.
The director borrows from heist classics like
John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and
Jules Dassin's Rififi (1955).
The film opens with the cryptic sentence:
"This story is a replica of the original".
We then see teen students playing flutes in a classroom.
The narrator (later we find out it's Juan's best friend Wilson) tells us that Juan's village was angry and sad when archeologists
removed the ancient statue of the Mayan god Tlaloc
to carry it to the city amid much fanfare and display it in the new anthropological museum.
Juan grew up aware of that vile plunder.
As a young man Juan worked briefly at the museum
taking photographs of the artifacts.
The story forwards to a day when Juan is testing his best friend
Wilson, whose father is very sick.
It's Christmas time. The family decided that Juan would impersonate Santa Claus
this year following in the footsteps of his grandfather who just died.
As he's trying the Santa Claus suit, Juan hears on television that repairs at
the museum will begin the following days. Juan buys some odd materials and asks
his father to borrow the car. His
father is a stern doctor, his mother a housewife on crutches.
Juan is studying to be a veterinarian.
Juan calls Wilson and insists that they him at midnight, although Wilson is supposed
to have Christmas dinner with his ailing father.
In the evening the extended family gets together for the big Christmas dinner.
Juan's uncle Oscar (his father's brother) shocks the family showing up with
a new sexy young girlfriend, Gaby.
Juan is annoyed by the conversation and lost in his own thoughts.
He shows a child where the Christmas presents are being hidden and the child
tells the other children: they all rush to the room and open their gifts,
unbeknownst to the adults. When a mother finds out, she gets furious at Juan
for revealing that Santa Claus doesn't exist. And so Juan doesn't have to impersonate Santa Claus and can leave the house.
Juan picks up Wilson and they drive to the museum.
They easily break into the museum and steal 140 artifacts.
They plan to use a man called Bosco to sell them.
While he's asleep, we see a flashback of his uncle Oscar telling Juan the real story
of a famous fire that burned down the house of his grandparents. Officially,
it was the uncle (Juan's father's older brother) who caused the fire, but in
reality it was Juan's father's fault, and Oscar took the blame because he was
considered a loser anyway.
In the morning the news of the theft is spreading, considered an affront to
the nation. As the family listens to
the television broadcast, Juan's father calls the thieves miserable bastards.
Wilson would like to return the artifacts to the museum, but Juan is determined
to bring them to Bosco.
On the way they get stopped at a police checkpoint. The police officers search
the car for drugs and ignore the artifacts.
Bosco works as a tour guide in a famous archeological park.
He's upset when Juan tells him that they are the thieves everybody is talking
and initially Bosco refuses to help them but then puts them in touch with
a foreigner named
Police all over the world are mobilized to find the thieves.
Finally, Graves makes contact. The day before the meeting
Wilson is called to the hospital because his father's conditions worsened
but Juan forces him to give priority to Graves than to his dying father.
Juan, Wilson, Bosco and Graves meet in a luxurious resort.
When Graves sees that they are trying to sell him the stolen pieces, he
tells them that they are crazy: those pieces are "unsellable".
Graves treats them like a couple of clumsy idiots and walks away.
Meanwhile, Juan's father has reported the car as stolen and the family
is anxiously waiting to find out what happened to him.
Juan is stubborn and comes up with another scheme. The meek Wilson keeps
blabbering that he needs to visit his father at the hospital.
While driving in the middle of the night, they are hit by another car.
Wilson, fed up with Juan's madness, gets out of the car and walks away in
the night. But, after a short fight, Wilson is back in the car, loyal to the end to his crazy friend.
Juan's new scheme (which he pursues alone) is to sell the pieces to
a man called Pepe Soto who performs at a club called "Heaven's Gates", except
that Juan gets into a fight at the club with men who mistreat the sexy dancer
Eugenia and later Eugenia tells him that Pepe died, killed because he had
debts. Eugenia and Juan drink, do drugs, walk on the beach. Juan falls
asleep on the beach. When he wakes up, he thinks that she stole his artifacts
but instead he soon finds that children took them to play in the sand.
Juan rejoins Wilson.
Wilson's father died and Wilson feels bad that he wasn't there.
Juan decides that they have to hide for a while.
Juan returns home to say goodbye to his parents. His father tells him that the
police suspects him of the museum robbery, and Juan confesses to him.
The father slaps him repeatedly trying to find out why Juan did it, but Juan
However, the father drives him to the museum, where Juan says goodbye but the father cannot hear what he says. Juan meets Wilson there. Juan tells Wilson to wait for him, then alone restores one of the stolen pieces (the jade death mask of the Mayan ruler Pacal), enough to draw the
attention of the guards. He is arrested, saving Wilson from arrest.
Wilson's narrating voice closes the film by telling us that Juan asked him not to tell the truth about what really happened.
(In reality, the artifacts were recovered by the police four years later thanks to a tip by a drug trafficker).
Una Pelicula de Policias/ A Cop Movie (2021) is a docudrama.