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London Film Festival Review: El Nino

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★★★★☆

El Niño is an immensely enjoyable Spanish blockbuster. It has delivered the biggest opening weekend for a Spanish film ever and this is probably down to its accessible approach to storytelling, intelligent characters, attractive cast and intuitive marketing.

Daniel Monzon offered up the compelling but brutal prison drama Cell 211 a few years ago, but this picture is less bloody and more enjoyable. It has two running and connecting narratives, one about some young drug dealers (with the heart-stoppingly gorgeous Jesus Castro taking centre stage) and the cops trying to catch them in the act (headed by Luis Tosar, almost unrecognisable from his role in Cell 211).

The film grips from the start and wisely avoids labelling one side good and one side bad. Everyone is out for themselves here and the lack of moralising is refreshing without being irresponsible. The consequences for illegal activities are not ignored, but by portraying the criminals as emotional and flawed human beings the narrative is allowed to bloom in a more involving way.

One could accuse other aspects of being a bit clichéd. There are speed boats and helicopter chases, bad men making threats, a Rome & Juliet-style love story, our handsome protagonist has sex on the beach, the cops have a big eureka moment at a convenient point. The list goes on. Conventional, yes, but it still works. The only real downside is the sidelining of Ian McShane as a British crime boss. He barely even says a word and just walks around in a white suite. Perhaps Monzon could do a sequel telling his side of the story.

El Niño (2104), directed by Daniel Monzón, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival this October and will be released in UK cinemas in 2015.

 

 

 




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