Below Zero

 

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A lockdown on wheels goes horribly wrong in this brutal and occasionally ingenious Spanish thriller.

   

Below zero

Cold-blooded: Javier Gutiérrez on the inside

 

Violence takes many forms and the sadism in Lluís Quílez' efficient Spanish thriller merits its own category. In the taxonomy of dramatic cinema, brutalism should speak its name. Apart from the nominal protagonist, Martín Salas (Javier Gutiérrez, from Marshland), every character in the movie flexes his own level of malevolence. But Martín is a good guy. We know this because he volunteers to fix the flat tyre of the family car in a torrential downpour. Weather is a big factor in Below Zero, although it doesn’t get really, really cold until much later. Once Martín has seen to the safety of his wife and cute young daughter, he reports for duty on his first day at a new precinct. In a baptism by fire, he is put on a night-time transfer shift with a new partner, Montesinos (Isak Férriz), a thug in blue who holds the rule of law in contempt. Martín, as he makes it known, likes to play by the book. Here on after, it’s a nightmare strictly for the boys and the prisoners in the charge of Martín and Montesinos are a monstrous lot. Locked in separate cells on board an armoured truck, the inmates are driven off into the night along a deserted woodland road into freezing fog…

 

With steely precision, Lluís Quílez lays the groundwork for a nuts-and-bolts thriller destined to play by certain formulae. However, Quílez and his co-writer Fernando Navarro use the tropes of the genre to their advantage. Of course, nobody is exactly who they seem and even in dire circumstances there may be honour among thieves – or the other way around. This is gripping stuff and Quílez is enough of a technician not to let the pace or tension lag which, in itself, is something of an achievement. Gutiérrez is a sympathetic and surprising lead, while his co-stars strut up and down the hierarchy of machismo with varying degrees of iniquity. As worst-case scenarios go, this, at its best, recalls Clouzot's nerve-shredding classic The Wages of Fear (1953) with doses of Con Air (1997) and S.W.A.T. (2003) thrown in for good measure. It’s brutal and preposterous, but within the realms of its own remit, it kinda works.

 

Original title: Bajocero.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Javier Gutiérrez, Àlex Monner, Patrick Criado, Florin Oprițescu, Karra Elejalde, Andrés Gertrúdix, Isak Férriz, Édgar Vittorino, Miquel Gelabert, Carla Chiorazzo, Eva Manjón.

 

Dir Lluís Quílez, Pro Josep Amorós and Pedro Uriol, Screenplay Fernando Navarro and Lluís Quílez, Ph Isaac Vila, Pro Des Óscar Sempere, Ed Antonio Frutos, Music Zacarías M. de la Riva, Costumes Giovanna Ribes.

 

Morena Films/Amorós Producciones/Film Factory-Netflix.

107 mins Spain. 2021. Rel: 29 January 2021. Available on Netflix. Cert. 18.