Alberto Rodriguez's film follows one unit in a crime-fighting force tasked with cleaning the city of Seville.
SEATTLE — An engrossing policier covering five years in the life of a dirty narc squad, Alberto Rodríguez's Unit 7 prowls the alleys and rooftops of Seville like William Friedkin on a no-sunshine Spanish holiday. Arthouse prospects are strong for the gritty, well paced pic.
Set in the years leading up to Seville's 1992 World Expo, the tale follows one unit in a crime-fighting force tasked with cleaning the city up before the eyes of the world turn upon it. When we meet the quartet, they're in the middle of a gutsy takedown, risking their necks and putting the fear of God into scuzzy dealers via beatdowns the ACLU would definitely not endorse. Their in-the-trenches banter and after-hours boozing reveals a tight crew making room for the addition of Ángel (Mario Casas), a good-looking rookie with a wife and baby at home.
The dynamic shifts when, on the quartet's first big bust together, Ángel stuffs a package of heroin down his pants. It never needs to be said that he has just become their leader, that working with some criminals to bust others is going to make them stars of the department while allowing them to line their pockets simultaneously.
While the years tick by via vintage news footage of Expo buildings rising from the ground, we watch the partners maneuver lives with more texture and gray-shading than the usual corrupt-cop cliché. Rafael (Antonio de la Torre), sporting a Chuck Norris beard and perpetually sad eyes, is the taciturn center of the film, a lonely man whose personal life comes to echo his morally complicated job.
Though the 95-minute film never dallies, Rodríguez and cowriter Rafael Cobos feel no rush to milk suspense from the inevitable pressures the squad faces. Ángel bears the brunt, as the circle of informants he has cultivated starts to turn on him just as Internal Affairs moves in for the kill, but these threats are used to illustrate the cop's character as much as to advance the plot.
The film's last hop across time is abrupt, quickly answering some questions that haven't really been asked yet, but any sense of dissatisfaction should ebb in the closing scene, which finds a final image eloquent enough to say much of what the script elides.
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, Ambiente
Production Company: Atípica Films
Cast: Antonio de la Torre, Mario Casas, Joaquín Núñez, José Manuel Poga, Inma Cuesta, Estefanía de los Santos, Julián Villagrán
Director: Alberto Rodríguez
Screenwriters: Rafael Cobos, Alberto Rodríguez
Producer: José Antonio Félez, Gervasio Iglesias
Director of photography: Alex Catalán
Production designer: Pepe Domínguez
Music: Julio de la Rosa
Costume designer: Fernando García
Editor: José M.G. Moyano
Sales: Vicente Canales, Film Factory Entertainment
No rating, 95 minutes