A Producciones 101/K2000/Euskal Media production, in association with Sogepaq. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Executive producer, Carlos Sobera.
Directed by Koldo Azkarreta. Screenplay, Azkarreta, Carlos Sobera. Camera (color), Aitor Mantxola; editor, Luis Manuel del Valle; music, Mario de Benito; sound (Dolby), Aitor Berenguer. Reviewed at San Sebastian Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 25, 1996. Running time: 87 MIN.
Hired Killer Imanol Arias Inspector Carlos Sobera Policeman # 1 Nacho Policeman # 2 Inaki Garcia Informer Ales Furundarena Robber Paco Obregon
One of many Reservoir Puppies to hit the screen post-Tarantino, freshman Koldo Azkarreta’s “Rigor Mortis” is a self-consciously stylish take on that old standby, the locked-room mystery. Better than many Spanish attempts at genre pics, movie has some commercial potential due to its strong, minimalist plot and an attractively devilish central performance by Imanol Arias.
Yarn opens with gangsters waiting uneasily to commit a crime. Azkarreta then cuts to post-crime action, in a suburban house that the gang uses as a luxury hideaway, a location that provides plenty of atmospherics.
There has been a bank holdup. A robber (Paco Obregon) has betrayed the gang and been found out. He is kidnapped by a sadistic informer (Ales Furundarena) and taken to the suburban house, where he is tortured, buried alive and then shot dead. The informer calls an old friend (Carlos Sobera), who is now a chief inspector, to strike a deal and get protection from the rest of the gang.
Meanwhile, a hired killer (Arias) has been employed by the gang to tail the informer. He gets into the house and kills the informer, whereupon the police arrive. They believe that the hired assassin is the informer. Rest of pic is devoted to exploring the dramatic possibilities of this complex setup, with the three policemen and Arias locked in the house together overnight.
The hired killer is an ideal role for veteran cool dude Arias, whose diabolical good looks get better with time and on whose intelligent, flashing eyes the camera rightly lingers. Rest of the cast, many of them making screen debuts, are thrown into his shadow. Sobera, bland as the police inspector with the heart of gold, lacks the charisma to give Arias a dramatic run for his money.
Although it sustains interest, pic owes too much to cinematic realism and too little to life, with crucial plot holes sitting uneasily in a film that fails to create the surreal, ironic context in which they could function as comic-book touches. Dramatic tension tends to wilt during the cliched, tough-guy dialogues , and characterization is broad-stroke.
Tech credits are good, with occasionally inventive use of camera angles, but a punchier soundtrack would have helped.