Spanish Film Festival Review: Retribution

A banker dropping his kids off to school receives a call telling him there’s a bomb in his car that will detonate unless he transfers a sum of money.

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Investment Banker Carlos (Luis Tosar) is dropping his children off at school one morning, when he receives a mysterious phone call. A stranger (Javier Gutiérrez) tells him over the phone that there is a bomb placed under his driver’s seat. Unless Carlos transfers a sum of money into The Stranger’s account immediately, it will be detonated, taking Carlos and his children with it. Carlos is forced to follow the instructions of the bomber to save his family, whilst desperately trying to understand why he’s been targeted and how he can escape.

Filmed in the Northern Spanish coastal city of A Coruña, this revenge thriller hits many standard beats and holds few surprises. It’s a slick, good looking production, with sharp, clear shots that seldom leave the viewer confused as to what is happening on screen, and the look of the film is helped along by many establishing shots of A Coruña. Despite appearing washed out and colourless, from a technical perspective, the films does what it needs to do – but from a characterisation and writing perspective, it leaves something to be desired.

The film’s most crippling issue is it lacks sympathetic characters for a good portion of the film. Carlos is a distant, disinterested father with an unethical job, his children are bratty, his wife may be having an affair, and the bomber is a murderer – but this is the cast we are stuck with for over half the film’s run time as Carlos attempts to find a way out of his predicament without upsetting the man holding his family hostage. With a lack of emotional connection to the characters, the lethal danger they find themselves in largely falls flat – it’s difficult to care about what happens to the family when they’re all so unlikable. Whilst this element gets better as the characters are developed over the course of the film (especially after the introduction of bomb disposal expert Belén, a no nonsense performance from Elvira Mínguez), the audience is still stuck with a car full of unpleasant people shouting at each other. The odd cheesy line from the children doesn’t help either.

Spanish audiences may connect better with certain elements of the film – Carlos’ job as an investment banker is of no small importance to the plot, and oblique references to the Spanish Financial Crisis may help them empathise with the on screen drama better than Anglosphere audiences. Although, let’s be honest, distaste for dodgy financial practices is hardly something uniquely Spanish.

Overall, a competent thriller with a couple of tense scenes that ultimately feels hollow. If you’re able to engage with the on-screen action despite this, you might have a good time.

Reviewed by Brendan Whittaker
Twitter: @BrendanW2

Rating out of 10:  6

Retribution screens on 6 May 2016 as part of the Spanish Film Festival, exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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