(Daniel Monzon, 2009)
Spain has turned out a handful of superior genre films over the last few years. The likes of King of the Hill and Time Crimes were well written and made a virtue of their budgetary restrictions. Taut and economical, both would seem ripe for the Hollywood remake treatment. A Cell 211 remake is already in the works, which is partly a reflection on the films massive success in Spain, where it made back its budget three times over at the Box Office and triumphed at the Goyas - the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars - winning Best Film, Director and Actor.
Strange to discover then that it is a solid B-Movie with an appealing high concept at its core: a Prison Guard is caught up in a riot on his first day in the job and to survive he pretends he is an inmate. From this director Monzon spins a gripping yarn of suspicion and tension which features a handful of great suspenseful moments as his protagonist risks discovery or nears escape, and is always expertly made.
But it is a manipulative little thrill-ride, elevated mainly by the performance of Luis Tosar, terrifying, complex and ever- believable as leader of the rioting prisoners, Malamadre. His performance alone is worth the price of admission.
Which is just as well, because other than that, Cell 211 is no better than an average episode of the terrific HBO show OZ.