El Nino – DVD Review

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*Based on a free copy provided by Amazon.

A decent Spanish thriller, and one for Lovejoy fans, this follows Nino and Compi – two lifelong friends who dream of having more money or setting up their own business. On the flip side we have Jesus and Eva, two cops who have been trying to catch a major drug dealer in the area for two years, but keep getting outsmarted and embarrassed. The film is played straight down the middle as we are able to sympathise with both sets of characters – Compi is a likable buffoon who wants girls and money in the quickest way possible, leading him and Nino into the drug trade, while Nino is an unusual character, coming across at times as a sociopath, at others like someone fiercely loyal to his friends. Jesus is fiercely loyal to his cause, following his gut even though it leads him into trouble many times and threatens his career and reputation – he doesn’t seem to care about this, entirely focused on the end goal of catching the bad guy, while Eva isn’t explored as deeply, being a more sympathetic partner to Jesus, wanting to follow his lead but more wary of the consequences. Throw into the mix an large assortment of side characters – cops, dealers, an ‘asking for trouble’ white-suited Ian McShane (who presumably only wears such a ridiculous outfit so that we recognise him in the final moments of the film) and a couple of love interests.

Director and Writer Daniel Monzon crafts an interesting story, and a detailed look at life in Gibraltar, with English, Spanish, and Africans all mingling and trading in a boiling pot of tension and luxury. I’d never heard of the Director before, but he does a sterling job in presenting these characters in a realistic fashion. Ably handled by a strong cast too, each performer is convincing, with the central trio of Lois Tosar (Jesus), Jesus Castro (Nino), and Jesus Carroza (Compi) standing out. The film is certainly character driven, with the wrapping plot of drug dealing acting as a catalyst. There is room for a budding romance between Nino and Amina, and plenty of scenes concerning the friendships of the various characters, hinting at a much larger, fully realised living and breathing world. There are some thrilling scenes – the various boat and helicopter encounters, the final standoff, and a car-chase reminiscent of The Dukes Of Hazzard, and these each have a decent amount of tension. You do want both sets of characters to succeed, and the Director is fully aware of this, giving an ending both justified and satisfying.

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This film is easily recommended to fans of Spanish cinema, as that field continues to grow and get better over the last couple of years. It’s another well acted, beautifully shot thoughtful story, which I would categorize as a thriller if fully pressed, but for anyone who enjoys a well told story with sprinkles of action and humour, set amidst interesting exotic locales, then this is well worth spending the money.

Have you seen El Nino? Let us know in the comments!

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