You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bruc: The Challenge

Essentially a slick, feature-length chase sequence about a 19th-century gang of mercenaries pursuing a resistance fighter through the Catalan mountains.

With: Juan Jose Ballesta, Vincent Perez, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Nicolas Giraud, Justin Blanckaert, Moussa Maaskri, Jerome Le Banner, Santi Millan. (Catalan dialogue)

Essentially a slick, feature-length chase sequence about a 19th-century gang of mercenaries pursuing a resistance fighter through the Catalan mountains, “Bruc: The Challenge” radically rewrites a Spanish legend for the videogame generation. Potentially rich raw material is served up as an adventure yarn short on characterization and subtlety, and although the pic makes efficient use of time-honored riffs on vengeance, it ultimately delivers little more than a few standard thrills. First weekend B.O. at home was solid but unspectacular; “Bruc’s” biggest challenge will be finding offshore distribs.

The story takes its inspiration from a defeat Napoleon’s troops suffered at the hands of local resistance fighters in 1808, during the Spanish War of Independence. Legend tells that the resistance’s victory was credited to a drummer boy whose drumrolls echoed around the caves and cliff sides so noisily that Napoleon’s soldiers took flight. The film’s hero is one of the conflict’s participants, Bruc (Juan Jose Ballesta), a humble charcoal burner who also happens to be a first-class fighter, hunter and hunk.

After the French have been humiliated, mercenary Maraval (Vincent Perez) receives a message from Napoleon himself telling him to track down and behead the person responsible for the defeat. Maraval puts together a team of grotesques to help him, including one-eyed De La Mata (Santi Millan), hulking Turkish wrestler Attab (Moussa Maaskri), and somewhat sexier Nouaille (Nicolas Giraud).

In two reels’ time, Maraval locates Bruc’s mountain village and burns down his house, kills his family and kidnaps his g.f., Gloria (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). Bruc vows revenge, and from then on it’s a cat-and-mouse game all the way, with an increasingly Rambo-like Bruc smearing himself with camouflage paint and picking off his pursuers, one by one, in a series of unlikely but entertaining scenarios.

Presumably lacking the budget for epic setpieces, “Bruc” wisely keeps things visually tight. Indeed, the least successful sequence is a bizarre, implausible re-creation of the French defeat, shot with juddering cameras, which suggests the drumrolls were sufficient to bring boulders down on the heads of the French. Otherwise, special effects are handled efficiently.

After the recent “Among Wolves,” Ballesta is shaping up as the go-to guy to play feral mountain boys. Here, he’s fine in a physically demanding role, and helmer Benmayor exploits his lupine good looks and taut torso more than his indubitable acting skills. The imposing Perez makes a wonderfully ruthless, over-the-top villain, with a fierce gaze that sends wolves scurrying away. Other perfs are cutout.

Though aerial views are overused, Juan Miguel Azpiroz’s crisp lensing fully exploits the majesty of the pic’s mountain regions — not only its sweeping, rocky landscapes but also its shadowy caves and tangled forests. The score is standard orchestral fare, with an attractively melodic theme.

Pic, which has been released in Spain in separate Catalan and Spanish versions, features several scenes of fairly explicit gore.

Bruc: The Challenge


Production: A Universal release of an Ikiru, El Toro production with the participation of TV3. (International sales: Studio Canal, Paris.) Produced by Edmon Roch, Jordi Gasull, Victoria Borras. Directed by Daniel Benmayor. Screenplay, Patxi Amezcua, Jose Luis Latasa, Jordi Gasull, based on a story by Gasull.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Juan Miguel Azpiroz; editor, Irene Blecua; music, Xavier Capellas; art director, Antxon Gomez; costume designers, Anna Aguila, Anna Montserrat, Ariadna Papio, Coro Mateo; sound (Dolby Digital), Tamara Arevalo. Reviewed at Cines Nervion Plaza, Seville, Dec. 27, 2010. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Juan Jose Ballesta, Vincent Perez, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Nicolas Giraud, Justin Blanckaert, Moussa Maaskri, Jerome Le Banner, Santi Millan. (Catalan dialogue)

More Film

  • President of the Jury, Mexican director

    Cannes Film Festival 2019 Winners Announced (Updating Live)

    CANNES — The awards show for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival competition is underway. Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven” earned a special mention from the jury. A droll commentary — from a director whose Jacques Tati-like screen persona hardly ever speaks — on his country’s troubles, as reflected through his travels to Paris and [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally agreed upon that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies by iconic [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Soaring to $100 Million-Plus Memorial Day Weekend Debut

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake is on its way to a commendable Memorial Day weekend debut with an estimated $109 million over the four-day period. The musical fantasy starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud should uncover about $87 million in its first three days from 4,476 North American theaters after taking in $31 million on Friday. [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe's The Lighthouse' Wins Cannes Critics' Award

    Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, won the Cannes Film Festival critics’ award for best first or second feature in Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week, one of the first prizes for which “The Lighthouse” has been eligible at Cannes. The award was announced Saturday in Cannes by the Intl. Federation of [...]

  • promenade Cannes Croisette Cannes Placeholder

    Cannes Market Claims Record Visitor Numbers

    The Cannes Market, the Cannes Film Festival’s commercial wing, says that its 2019 edition welcomed a record number of participants. It reported 12,527 attendees. The largest group by nationality was from the U.S. with 2,264 participants, followed by France with 1,943 participants, and the U.K. 1,145. Comparable figures for 2018 were not available. The number [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Alien' at 40: Ridley Scott Explains Why 'You Don't Show the Monster Too Many Times'

    It’s difficult to imagine Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic “Alien” without the clear-minded, strong presence of Tom Skerritt as Dallas, the captain of the ill-fated Nostromo. But originally, the actor turned down “Alien,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary on May 25, though he thought Dan O’Bannon’s script read well. “There was nobody involved at the time [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content