Span­ish mur­der mys­tery riv­ets au­di­ence

The Tribune (NZ) - - Backyard Banter -

Marsh­land ( R16)

Di­rected by Al­berto Ro­driquez 1hr 45min, Re­viewed by Peter Lampp ★★★★

Spain must be turn­ing out some qual­ity cin­ema if this crime drama couldn’t qual­ify for their for­eign film Academy Awards en­try.

It is a con­vo­luted but in­tense who­dun­nit, set in the swamp­lands of An­dalu­cia deep in the heart of Spain in 1980, where ev­ery­one seems un­happy, and a se­rial killer is at large.

Marsh­land ( La isla min­ima) is riv­et­ing from go to whoa, de­spite the plot be­ing young girls from a rather bleak vil­lage dis­ap­pear­ing and be­ing mur­dered .

The di­a­logue is rapid-fire Span­ish and the sub-ti­tles call for speed-read­ing – so be alert. Also be ready for thun­der­claps in many scenes that al­most jolt you out of your seats.

Two brood­ing, un­smil­ing homi­cide de­tec­tives, with op­pos­ing Span­ish po­lit­i­cal roots, are despatched from Madrid to the marshes to un­ravel the mur­der­ous may­hem.

I could name the ac­tors but they wouldn’t mean much to us.

Juan, though, isn’t shy of clob­ber­ing sus­pects, as he did as a fas­cist cop dur­ing the Franco dic­ta­tor­ship.

His col­league, Pe­dro, is younger and from the democ­racy era and they are hardly ami­gos.

They do need a heavy hand to break through the lies and coverups in a lo­cal com­mu­nity that has been ter­rorised for years.

The plot has al­most too many twists and I’m cer­tain I missed a few.

We are spared the hor­rors the mur­dered girls have en­dured, de­spite the over-the-top R16 clas­si­fi­ca­tion. Just a few naked corpses. Need­less to say many of the seedy in­hab­i­tants of the marshes aren’t happy to have the po­lice nos­ing around and there are scary car chases in Span­ish jalop­ies along dirt dykes with wa­ter lap­ping on each side.

The two cops are well por­trayed in the Clint East­wood mould: tough, moody types op­er­at­ing in dirty, dusty cars, ho­tels, build­ings and land­scapes.

Grim and sus­pense­ful with ex­cel­lent aerial shots, Marsh­land would not en­tice me to Spain but would en­tice me to di­rec­tor Al­berto Ro­driquez’s next film.

Raul Arevalo and Javier Gu­tier­rez in Span­ish mur­der mys­tery, Marsh­land.

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