The latest Quentin Tarantino wannabe on the fest circuit is Spanish director Daniel Calparsoro, whose pungent “Jump Into the Void” was greeted with widely divergent reactions at its Berlin Panorama preem. Ultra-violent pic about a gang of ruthless hoods is leavened by the surprisingly tender treatment of the principal femme character, beautifully played by Najwa Nimry. Pic should crop up at other fests, and has “cult” written all over it.
Twenty-seven-year-old Calparsoro, who graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU in 1993, is clearly eager to make his mark, and “Void” is very much a calling-card film. Young helmer displays plenty of cinematic know-how, though the world of nihilistic violence may be beginning to pall for even the most ardent fans of the genre.
Still, “Void” works on a deeper, more human level, and can’t be easily dismissed as just another exercise in bloodletting.
Striking opening rams the viewer instantly into a getaway car containing three men, a woman and a blindfolded cop they’ve taken hostage. A somewhat bungled robbery has just taken place, and one of the robbers, Esteban (Alfredo Villa), hysterically certain the cop saw his face, repeatedly threatens to kill the man.
The gang leader, Javi (Roberto Chalu), a Brazilian, and the driver, Tono (Ion Gabella), are more in control of the situation, while the woman, 20-year-old Alex (Nimry) tries to keep the lid on things. But when the car reaches a desolate quarry, and Javi tries to stop Esteban from killing the cop, it’s Tono who unexpectedly pulls a gun and executes the unfortunate man, bringing the argument to an abrupt end.
After this violent curtain-raiser, Calparsoro concentrates for a while on Alex, who wears short-cropped hair and has the word “void” shaved on the back of her head. Alex lives with her parents and two brothers in a grimy apartment, and she’s the breadwinner, dealing drugs and running guns with Javi and his gang. She also craves love and affection, and hopes to get it from Javi, who never responds.
The mayhem continues in a quarrel with a couple of corrupt cops during which one cop slices off Esteban’s thumb and is shot dead in the ensuing fray. But his partner is let go and later recruits Esteban as a member of a police-approved vigilante gang.
Alex, meanwhile, accepts a job as bodyguard to a man involved in illegal dog-fighting, and is forced to kill two guys who attack her client.
The bleak urban world depicted in “Jump Into the Void” is utterly charmless, and Alex and her thuggish friends are bad company indeed. Yet somehow Calparsoro and Nimry manage to convey the loneliness and longing of Alex so that, despite her criminal activity, her fate becomes a matter of concern.
“Void” is a stark, gripping film that cunningly manipulates the audience and is filled with unexpected moments of horror. Yet the final impression is that of a desperately sad society living on the edge of complete hopelessness.
All tech credits are first-rate, especially Kiko de la Rica’s edgy, hand-held camerawork.