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“Good lord, how many ways can you tell the same story?”, says one crooked politician to another midway through The Realm, a blistering new political thriller from Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen. If that line is intended to anticipate any scorn from viewers fatigued with House of Cards-style chicanery, Sorogoyen’s tense, twisty nail-biter offers ample assurance that there’s still plenty of meat on the bone.
The reliable Antonio de la Torre leads an ensemble of dirty politicians as Manuel Lopez Vidal, a fast-talking Spanish vice-secretary who enjoys a cushy lifestyle of extravagant expenses, courtesy of the kickbacks and embezzlement schemes he orchestrates with his colleagues. But when some of these dirty deeds come to light with the media, Manuel finds himself the party scapegoat. Rather than dutifully taking one for the team, Manuel converts to whistle-blower instead, scrambling for enough evidence to barter his way out.
Whatever familiarity this premise contains, the pace and pulse of the film never allow for a stale second, especially in its action-packed second half. The final 30 minutes offer three outstanding sequences: a squirmy heist during a teen party, a high-octane car chase and a riveting head-to-head debate on live television. By the end, Sorogoyen has fired shots at his country’s entire broken system, ending on a closing note of implication that has a damning universal sting. The same old story indeed. — JF
“The sort of film that could easily be scooped up for a Hollywood remake – but don’t wait for that, vote for the original.” — Amber Wilkinson, Eye For Film