×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘The Bar’

A thriller about the patrons of a bar trying to survive an attack plays like an attack — of bad filmmaking — on the audience.

With:
Blanca Suárez, Mario Casas, Carmen Machi, Secun de le Rosa, Jaime Ordóñez, Terele Pávez, Joaquín Climent, Alejandro Awada.
Release Date:
Feb 15, 2017

Official Site: https://www.berlinale.de/en/programm/berlinale_programm/datenblatt.php?film_id=201715522#tab=video25

The Bar,” a Spanish thriller about a bunch of people stuck inside a bar and its basement, trying to survive a mysterious attack, is easily the worst movie I’ve seen at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The irony is, it’s a movie that’s out to do nothing more than entertain you. But I’ve sat through paint-drying art films here (like “Spoor”) that weren’t nearly as grueling. The director, Álex de la Iglesia, is a former comic-book artist and protégé of Pedro Almodóvar who specializes in dark comedies, and he stages every scene — every moment — of “The Bar” for maximum “intensity,” which means that the characters don’t talk, they shout, and the film is paced like an action sequence that never ends (even though it all takes place in two rooms and a sewer), and almost nothing that happens makes any sense. This aggressively garish aesthetic of more-more-more may be some people’s cup of overkill, but it’s really just ineptitude moving too fast for you to notice it.

It’s mid-morning in downtown Madrid, inside a crowded watering hole (a few of the patrons are drinking, but most are just having breakfast), and the fun kicks off when someone walks onto the crowded street outside and is killed by a mysterious bullet. Is it a sniper? A terrorist? A bizarre accident? Another patron rushes to his aid and is killed as well, and for 20 minutes or so the film pretends that the answer might matter. But this is merely a way of getting the violent mayhem rolling. There’s some hysteria over whether touching one of the dead bodies will “infect” everybody, and though that, too, doesn’t come to much, it’s the tip-off that de la Iglesia is, in essence, making a zombie movie. Only the zombies are his live characters! They don’t have to turn frothing and rabid and dead. They stalk one another — and the audience — with their tedious gnashing distemper.

The square outside the bar is soon abandoned (but where are the cops? — forgive me, I need to subject this movie to one reality-based question per paragraph), and that means that the patrons must now figure out how to survive. A handful head down to the basement, and that leads to what is basically act two, which might be called “Same Tiresome Folks, More Claustrophobic Setting.” The most colorful of the crew is a homeless man named Israel (Jaime Ordóñez), who looks like a psychotic Jesus and is basically on hand to terrorize everyone. Until, that is, he choses to try and squeeze through a slightly too-small hole in the basement floor. He coats himself in some kind of oil, but nope, he gets stuck, and for what seems like about 10 minutes the movie is all about him screaming and wriggling to wedge his body out of that hole.

“The Bar” was obviously conceived as a knowing “B” movie, but in the old days, the essence of that sort of picture was that even if the screenwriting was flat, a few of the actors might come through. The script of “The Bar,” by Jorge Guerricaechevarría, barely makes it to two dimensions, but the real problem is that de la Iglesia’s direction is so frantic and showy that he allows his actors no space. They’re pawns in his clattering “visual” design. Ultimately, the characters make it out of the basement, only to land in the sewer. You know how the sewer water in movies always looks oddly clean? The one unfortunate concession to reality here is that the sewer water looks like your worst nightmare of sewer water. It’s got… stuff in it. “The Bar” turns into a movie about a bunch of shouting ciphers dunked in goop.

In what we once would have called the last reel, the lead character, Elena (Blanca Suárez), strips down to her underwear, as if to fulfill the commercial imperative insisted upon by some schlock producer from the ’80s. Will she make it out of the sewer, in her bra and panties and stockings, along with Nacho (Mario Casas), her companion? Or will Israel, the grimy demon Christ with the awful teeth, drag one or both of them down into the muck? “The Bar” drags the audience down. It’s an assault of bad judgment.

Berlin Film Review: 'The Bar'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 15, 2017. Running time: 102 MIN. Original title: El Bar

Production: A Pokeepsie Films, Nadie es Perfecto, Atresmedia Cine production. Producers: Carolina Bang Kiko Martínez, Mikel Lejarza, Mercedes Gamero, Álex de la Iglesia. Executive producers: Carolina Bang, Kiko Martínez.

Crew: Director: Álex de la Iglesia. Screenplay: Jorge Guerricaechevarría. Camera (color, widescreen): Ángel Amorós. Editor: Domingo González.

With: Blanca Suárez, Mario Casas, Carmen Machi, Secun de le Rosa, Jaime Ordóñez, Terele Pávez, Joaquín Climent, Alejandro Awada.

More Film

  • 'Liga' Kicks Off At Ventana Sur's

    Ventana Sur: 'La Liga' Kicks Off at Buenos Aires' Animation!

    Spain’s Quirino Awards, Argentina’s Animation! and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival, three key events in Ibero-American animation, will join forces to create La Liga (The League), as announced Wednesday at an Animation! round table hosted by the Quirino Awards, titled “Iberoamerican Alliance Models.” Speakers included Quirino Awards promoter José Luis Farias, Mexico’s Pixelatl director José Iñesta, Gonzalo [...]

  • The Quake Review

    Film Review: 'The Quake'

    Roar Uthaug’s 2015 “The Wave” revived the pleasures of the 1970s disaster-movie cycle in a form that seemed purer than the never-quite-dead genre’s recent Stateside incarnations — most of which seem to involve Dwayne Johnson in a generic pileup of CGI perils. “The Wave” wasn’t high art, but it was entertainment that delivered some standard [...]

  • The Mule trailer

    Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule'

    From Dirty Harry to … dirty grandpa, Clint Eastwood certainly has a type of character that he plays best, and “The Mule” finds him squarely in his comfort zone, appearing as a surly old horticulturalist who, at age 90, has become perhaps the most reliable drug runner for the Sinaloa cartel, evading detection for nearly [...]

  • Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, ‘The Realm,’

    ‘The Realm,’ ‘Champions,’ Cruz and Bardem Among Spanish Academy Goya Nominations

    MADRID — Spain’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today the nominees for the 33rdedition of the Goya Awards, to be held at the Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones in Sevilla on Feb. 2, 2019. Leading the pack with 13 nominations is Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s ultra-current political thriller “The Realm,” which impressed in San [...]

  • Sony Pictures to release Pedro Almodovar’s

    Sony Pictures to Release Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Pain & Glory' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In a break from his Spanish distributor of past years, Warner Bros., Pedro Almodovar has opted to release his latest film “Pain & Glory” in Spain via Sony Pictures Releasing International on March 22, 2019. “We are delighted and excited that we are releasing “Pain & Glory” in Spain with a whole new team: Sony Pictures in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content