A hastily put-together historical adventure spun off from the successful, same-named Spanish tube series, the mostly silly “Red Eagle” is the latest example of how Spain struggles when revisiting its own past on film. Although it looks decent, and occasionally captures a sweeping-epic air, pic is more often closer to pastiche, with characters and plot reduced to mere sketches. However, B.O. has been second only to that of the record-breaking “Torrente 4,” and “Eagle” is likely to fly high in territories where the series was popular, though familiarity with the original isn’t necessary to make sense of things.
Set in the 17th century, the film focuses on an attempt by the combined powers of England, France and Portugal to seize power from Felipe IV of Spain (Xabier Elorriaga). Aided by a corrupt, fleshy-jowled cardinal (Jose Angel Egido) and the Marquess of Santillana (Myriam Gallego), they poison the king’s food, though he survives and is smuggled to safety by his faithful captain (Francis Lorenzo).
Resembling Robin Hood in his pursuit of justice and Clark Kent in his swift transformations from humble citizen to hero, Red Eagle (David Janer) is seen by the cardinal as a threat to the plan to dethrone Felipe. The cardinal’s attempt to assassinate him duly fails, but during the ensuing fight, Red Eagle’s son, Alonso (Guillermo Campra), is blinded.
From then on Red Eagle is a strangely marginal presence, spending most of the pic’s duration being consoled by Alonso and faithful sidekick Satur (Javier Gutierrez, overacting madly as the source of most of the comedy).
The script bounces along happily enough from setpiece to setpiece in a way that 15-year-olds will enjoy, but is sabotaged by regular blasts of unintentional silliness, for instance when Beatriz (model-turned-thesp Martina Klein, unconvincing) speaks in a high voice from under the brim of her hat and is mistaken for a castrato. Other cliches include a maiden (unsurprisingly, Klein again) bathing in a lake and being spied on, a priest’s cassock being ripped to reveal his buttocks, and the king riding triumphantly on horseback into a speechless court.
Muscular, decent and handy with a sword, Red Eagle himself lacks any other distinguishing characteristics. Performances are hammy, though Egido and Gutierrez at least seem to be enjoying themselves. Partly shot on location around the El Escorial palace outside Madrid, pic is visually impressive; period detail and somewhat rushed fight sequences are likewise convincing. Score is standard orchestral fare.