Enrique Urbizu’s good-looking, intelligent “Box 507,” is a fine addition to the list of Spanish thrillers (“His Master’s Voice,” “The Beach of the Greyhounds”) that focus on the socio-political realities of contempo Spain rather than on the genre conventions of Hollywood. A walk on the dark side of Spain’s Costa del Sol, this features good production values, a pleasingly intricate plotline, taut pacing, and a sterling central perf from Antonio Resines as a David against the Goliath of corruption. Home B.O. has been nifty for this late August release, reaffirming Urbizu as Spain’s premier thriller helmer.
Maria (Dafne Fernandez), daughter of bank director Modesto (Resines), is killed in a forest fire. Seven years later, crucial documents are taken from a safety deposit box (Box 507) at Modesto’s bank in a heist led by diamond trafficker Reguiera (Juan Fernandez), which also leaves his wife, Angela (Miriam Montilla), in a coma. Post-heist, Modesto finds documents proving the fire that killed his daughter was deliberately started, to free up land for illegal construction. For the sake of his wife and dead daughter, he decides first to find out the truth, and later to take revenge.
The documents are crucial to ex-cop Rafael (Jose Coronado), who lives with alcoholic Monica (looker Goya Toledo, from “Amores perros”). Having betrayed his Italian mafia bosses, Rafael now has to go in search of the documents. Thus pic neatly sets up a parallel search motif — methodical gunman Rafael against methodical banker Modesto, who employs accounting skills to achieve his aim.
Modesto’s investigations uncover a web of corruption which goes, via Guijuelo (Sancho Gracia) and several criminal organizations, right to the heart of Spanish institutional life. The two plotlines are dexterously kept separate until the final reel, but the impending showdown is never far from view as the tension winds up to a quietly affirmative, credible finale.
The physically imposing Coronado is nicely intense as Rafael’s enemies pile up and he becomes more and more desperate; the perf is at times rich enough to inspire sympathy for his repellent character. Prolific vet Resines (who also starred in Urbizu’s 1991 “All for Bread”) is tailor-made for the role of the dull little man with big integrity, and milks it for all he’s worth in a quiet, intense perf which ranks with his best. Several minor characters are less plausible, with the script too often leading the villains into caricature.
Pic is co-scripted by Michel Gaztambide, who co-wrote Julio Medem’s debut “Cows.” Its principal pleasures are the shirking of obvious thrills and its attention to realism, as in the practicalities of opening bank safes or the ever-present sweat on Modesto’s forehead. Bleached Costa del Sol locations are well-captured by Carles Gusi’s lensing, with the ugly landscape echoing the moral repulsiveness on show.