Tense, gritty, and engaging from the opening frame.
Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) is starting a new job as a prison guard at a high security jail. He goes in the day before he’s supposed to start to get the lay of the land and show some initiative, only to be knocked unconscious in the early stages of what becomes a massive convict riot. Abandoned and left in a cell when his fellow guards flee for their safety, he awakens and is forced to act as though he is an inmate as the days-long riot unfolds, soon finding himself in a cat and mouse game with the shady characters inhabiting the jail, the negotiators sent in by the Spanish government, some dastardly prison guards, and the “boss” of the inmates, Malamadre (translated to “Bad Mother” and played excellently by Luis Tosar).
The movie is suspenseful and very well-acted. Rarely do I notice casting in a movie, but it’s great here. The convicts are colorful characters, and one in particular stands out (the one who finds Juan at first, his character’s name is never given). It isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch, and is nowhere near as good as 2009’s Un Prophete (another foreign-language prison film- go watch it immediately if you’ve not yet seen it, brilliant). There are several plot elements that strain believability, but on the whole, this is an entertaining, well-paced movie. I would be shocked if we don’t seen an Americanized version of it soon.
4 out of 5 stars