As brooding, intense and dull as its protagonist, “Open 24h” reps yet another Spanish film about an alienated young man who suddenly explodes. As in Manuel Martin Cuencas’ recent “Half of Oscar,” the protag here is a security guard, but where the tension was palpable in that film, this time there’s a grinding sense of inevitability, as the pic sacrifices drama to bleak emotional authenticity. Viewers seeking the high-adrenaline rhythms of Torras’ co-helmed earlier work will not find them in this sluggish item, whose main interest lies in its stunning black-and-white cinematography. Beyond a few fests, doors for “Open” will remain closed.
Barcelona security guard Hector (Amadis de Murga) lives with his brutish father (Jose Maria Blanco) and mentally disabled brother (Ruben Jimenez). Hector works the night shift at a junkyard, reading books by Erich von Daniken and listening to radio programs about the mysteries of the universe, which seem to fill him with a sense of his own meaninglessness. During the day, he jogs while listening to thrash metal and deals with a social worker (Fina Rius) regarding the fate of his brother, and with a lawyer (Judit Uriach) about his dismissal from his previous job. Presumably because society is uncaring and impersonal, the other characters don’t have names.
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Like a low-rent “Biutiful,” “Open 24h” allows its protag’s misfortunes to pile up. His father refuses to take his brother to the center where he’d be looked after, and the lawyer is just as uninterested in his case: One rare moment of sharp humor has the increasingly exhausted Hector confused about whether she’s addressing him or her cell phone. Exhausted and complaining of headaches, he visits a doctor who uselessly asks Hector whether he believes in God.
By the time the final reel comes around, the sheer horror of Hector’s circumstances means that Murga has generated surprising sympathy for a man with violent tendencies who is barely capable of stringing two sentences together. But the decision to play Hector as a blank means the thesp can’t sustain aud interest in someone who has so clearly, and not very subtly, been conceived as a textbook model of alienation. Other perfs are up to scratch.
Tech credits work successfully in the service of the pic’s bleak atmospherics. Juan Gonzalez’s textured monochrome lensing renders superbly the mountainous, gleaming piles of junk metal among which Hector prowls, torch in hand, and the depressingly impersonal cramped interiors. There is more than a little “Eraserhead” in Eladio Reguero’s superb soundwork, with its industrial hums, clanks and groans.