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Spanish thriller and horror meister Enrique Urbizu concocts a tense, briskly paced genre thriller around the old story of a good cop gone bad, who ends up working on his own against a ring of international criminals. Engrossing action, a rock solid central performance by Urbizu regular Jose Coronado (Box 507) and energetic tech work all keep this police procedural on track. There’s no busting out of the conventions here – on the contrary, the classic plotting and characters include robotic Islamic terrorists, drug addicted hookers and a supernaturally perceptive police force that leaves CSI: Miami in the shade. The film should do pacey local business when Warner Bros. Spain opens it on Sept. 23 and has the wherewithal to edge its way into collateral markets.
Urbizu and co-scripter Michel Gaztambide leave quite a bit of wiggle room for who is actually “wicked” in this story, which opens with a chilling sequence in an after-hours men’s club that leaves three corpses under the bar. They are murdered in cold blood for futile reasons by drunken police inspector Santos Trinidad (Coronado), who may have shaky hands but sure knows how to hit a target. Making use of his long experience on crime scenes, he cleans up the evidence but lets one young blade (Karim El-Kerem) slip through his fingers. His quest to kill this eyewitness drives the rest of the film.
Attractive, coolly efficient judge Chacon (Helena Miquel) is assigned to investigate the triple murder, aided by the even cooler investigator Leiva (Juanjo Artero). Naturally they can’t know the crime was a random moment of panic by an otherwise respected police officer. When the dead men turn out to have links to prostitution and a Colombia drug trafficking ring, they can be pardoned for a few initial wrong inferences.
The intertwined investigations play off against each other tensely, as more and more peripheral characters are brought before the judge for interrogation or hunted down by Trinidad, who turns out to be a demoted Intelligence officer. His private investigation goes farthest and links the drug traffickers to North African terrorists who are about to execute a diabolic plot. With his back to the wall, he’s as much of a desperado as any other character, and the rawness of Coronado’s standout performance (in one scene, he sews up a knife wound in his own stomach) adds needed dramatic grounding to his personal crusade.
Credits are highly professional while keeping within genre norms. Mario De Benito’s well-heeled symphonic orchestra intensifies the action, which was shot in Alicante and Madrid.
Venue: San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 18, 2011.
Production companies: Lazona, Telecinco Cinema
Cast: Jose Coronado, Helena Miquel, Rodolfo Sanchez, Juanjo Artero, Karim El-Kerem, Nadia Casado
Director: Enrique Urbizu
Screenwriter: Enrique Urbizu, Michel Gaztambide
Executive producers: Gonzalo Salazar-Simpson, Javier Ugarte
Producers: Gonzalo Salazar-Simpson, Alvaro Augustin
Director of photography: Unax Mendia
Production designer: Anton Laguna
Music: Mario De Benito
Costumes: Patricia Monne
Editor: Pablo Blanco
Sales Agent: Filmax International
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