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SITGES 2019

Review: The Goya Murders

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- Aided by a game Maribel Verdú, Gerardo Herrero delivers CSI: Spanish Romantic Painters edition

Review: The Goya Murders
Aura Garrido and Maribel Verdú in The Goya Murders

Gerardo Herrero’s thriller The Goya Murders [+see also:
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, presented as an Òrbita – Special Session at the Sitges Film Festival, sees two female inspectors butting heads while trying to capture a killer on the loose, taking his sweet time painstakingly reproducing scenes from Goya’s Caprichos – a series of prints in aquatint and etching depicting, as rumour has it, the foolishness of Spanish society at that time. In all probability, said foolishness is still very much intact, as human stupidity is the one thing that never really seems to age. A bit like Cher.

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Built around the undeniable fact that Madrid-born Maribel Verdú is a national treasure, so good in everything from Y Tu Mamá También to Pan’s Labyrinth [+see also:
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and justly celebrated with a Time Machine Award for Lifetime Achievement at the festival, The Goya Murders is dumb, pulpy fun – the kind of story that Jo Nesbø might have come up with after indulging in too much wine on his Spanish vacaciones. It is delightfully elevated by Verdú, all dramatic eyeliner and a pissed-off expression, taking the clichés and running with all they have to offer, plus some one-liners courtesy of screenwriter Ángela Armero that are simply to die for. Quite literally, as it turns out, with the murderer that’s a stickler for detail but also surprisingly sprightly.

Predictably, Verdú’s grumpy, chain-smoking Carmen Cobos gets all the best lines, murmuring, “One less divorcee” when faced with the already-cold first victim or explaining the mechanics of the male-on-female murder to her rookie partner Eva (an uneven Aura Garrido), culminating in: “You would be surprised how often you find blood in the extractor fan.” Which seems to be a fair point, while we’re at it. For all the men stomping around, sometimes even on crutches, it’s this odd-couple pairing that drives the story, with Herrero underlining their many differences at every turn, like in some modernised sequel to that 1977 drama by Agnès Varda – but here, One Sings Karaoke, the Other Doesn’t. The booze flows freely as well, with Carmen’s flask making such frequent appearances that it ends up being promoted to a supporting part.

Seeing these two together, trying to wriggle out of the tried-and-tested old-dog-and-rookie scenario, is more entertaining than the investigation itself – burdened by some suspiciously stiff performances, a number of scenes betraying the not-so-high budget, and one backstory that you can see coming a mile off and which ultimately leads nowhere. At times feeling like CSI: Spanish Romantic Painters edition, it might ultimately be better suited for the small screen. That said, you will be surprised to find out how often you find blood in the extractor fan.

The Goya Murders was produced by Gerardo Herrero for Spain’s Tornasol Films, Spanish outfit Movistar+ and Belgium’s Entre Chien et Loup, and was backed by the ICAA. Its distribution is handled by A Contracorriente Films, while the sales are by Latido Films.

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