There are names in films that are connected with unusual characters, strange plot lines and Hollywood-challenging concepts and memorable delivery methods. While Del Torro delves into fantasy, Almodover continues with his strong female study.
Since his world-stage recognition in 1986 with Matador, Almodover has worked with Banderas on and off but its been what feels like ages since the two have collaborated. Alot of this may be down to the fact that Banderas has been Spy Kids-ing and Shrek-ing it up recently, so much so that the serious side to him may have been lost to most cinema-goers.
Here, with the script that allows him to show off his forgotten range, from smouldering intensity to down-right insanity, Banderas becomes abit of a revelation throughout. With the film carried essentially by only him and Anaya, it is both of their performances that helps you sit through what becomes quite a disturbing tale...
What you have here is something that only European cinema can seem to deliver or is brave enough to at least try. Here is a depiction of obsessive behaviour that, when married with a hunger for revenge and justice, goes to a level of the human psyche that frankly, if thought about even for a moment, is very disturbing indeed. Much has been made from other reviews about the films "must keep secret twist" but all that does is then keep the viewer looking out for it rather than just try and absorb the film experience itself. If you've dabbled with European cinema before, the surprise won't really be one as you'll spot it before the reveal.
With a story that is so un-mainstream, it's surprising that the editing, cinematography and overall feel of it is very pedestrain. It is almost as if Almodover has deliberately pulled back from the "unusual," with only one character raising quirky visual interest in his tiger outfit throughout the entire film. Other than that and it could have been any old person behind the camera.
Anaya, as the experiment/hostage of Banderas, looking for all the world like a young Julia Ormond, matches her co-star for an outstanding performance. So much so that it is she that you end up rooting for rather than any other character or their point-of-view.
Despite the unsettling nature at the core of it, this feels like an average attempt from the man who normally delivers characters that, along with their dialogue, stays with you long after the lights go up. Here, the majority of it feels flat and, if you want the kind of twist and turns that are talked about, you should look to The Secret In Their Eyes for more satisfaction.
UK release date: 26.08.11