It’s shaping up to be a hell of a year for foreign prison movies, dear reader. Earlier in the year we saw the release of the fantastic French film A Prophet and now Spain has dropped Cell 211 on our sunny shores, albeit with far less fan-fare. How a movie this undeniably kick ass could be over-looked by the Landmark Theatres chain while bring-your-own-blanket-and-pillow-lookin’ flicks like Countdown to Zero and Agora clog up their valuable screen space is fucking beyond the Nerd. Cell 211 is a fucking straight-up sleeper, a movie that shames all the limp “blockbusters” that’ve shrugged their way to the multiplexes this summer with its stomach-turning tension and balloon-sized balls.
Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) is taking a tour of the prison he’s been hired on at when the fearsome inmate Malamadre starts a prison riot. In all the confusion Oliver is abandoned in the cell block while the other guards flee to safety. Thinking fast, Oliver chucks his visitor pass and shoelaces and pretends he’s a new inmate, his cunning and toughness soon making him a confidante of Malamadre. As Malamadre starts making demands to the warden over the lives of vital political prisoners, Oliver struggles to keep his cover and stay alive through all the chaos, eventually finding out just how much of his soul he’s willing to lose in order to survive.
This shit never fucking flags for a minute and the suspense is often agonizing. If you check your cell phone for the time even once during this beast you have the attention span of a fucking three year old. Ammann makes you feel and believe every step Oliver takes further into hell and Luis Tosar’s performance as Malamadre is fucking legendary – up there with some of the great screen badasses of all time.
It’s a safe bet that Cell 211 will probably get an American remake within the next few years, but I highly fucking doubt that any studio would have the balls to do this screenplay justice. One could imagine a decent-ish take on Cell 211 in the U.S. about an innocent guy undercover during a prison riot, but this film takes the dives head-first into some truly nasty and no-shit shocking places. I doubt fucking Ryan Reynolds and The fucking Rock or whoever the fuck would be up for making a movie that stings even half as much as the original.
Hopefully this shit comes to your town, dear reader, but if not you need to throw this motherfucker on your queue toot-fucking-sweet. This is my kind of entertainment: a thriller that is totally arresting and unafraid to take its premise to the dark extremes that it justly fucking deserves. Start fucking seeking, my beloved basement crazies.