Star rating 9/10
This is a pacey, thrilling, and exhilarating Spanish prison drama that makes the likes of ‘A Prophet’ look very introspective and calm by comparison. It is set on quite an original premise – new prison guard Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) is having a tour round the prison before his first official day working there, and finds himself at the heart of a prison riot with seemingly no way out.
He has the quick wit and nerve to pass himself off as newly arrived murderer, and has to win the respect and trust of his fellow inmates, especially the ferocious self appointed leader of the gang Malamadre (Luis Toscar). Both actors are terrific in these highly charged parts. With his beautiful looks and intelligent acting, Ammann looks set to be the next Garcia Gael Bernal. And Luis is fantastic as the terrifying hard man with the inevitable soft side if you look deep enough.
The prisoners have to negotiate with the authorities to try to get their demands met, and Juan has to endure his pregnant wife being endangered in the mêlée. The prisoners are not all bad and the guards are certainly not all good either. It is tense, exciting and extremely fast and furious. The story line slightly stretched credulity in places - I won’t spoil it by saying exactly how. Just go along for the ride, suspend any minor elements of disbelief you may have, and be thoroughly entertained.