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FILMS / REVIEWS Spain

Review: Amigo

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- In Óscar Martín’s début feature, Javier Botet learns the hard way that, sometimes, a friend is not a gift you give yourself but a two-legged rat with a dastardly plan

Review: Amigo
David Pareja and Javier Botet in Amigo

In her roof-raising ode to mean-spiritedness, Rata de dos patas (“Two-legged rat”), Mexico’s legendary Paquita la del Barrio famously sang: “Despicable animal, scum of life, ill-favoured monstrosity, subhuman, hell wraith, damnable vermin, how much damage you have done to me...” It is almost as if this vitriolic anthem, a sure-fire hit with karaoke fans across the Spanish-speaking world, had inspired filmmaker Óscar Martín’s script for his first feature film, Amigo [+see also:
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— a team effort between the director and his two stars, Javier Botet and David Pareja.

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The characters’ names may seem strangely familiar: Botet is Javi, an unfortunate victim of a horrific accident, now confined to his bed or a wheelchair. Pareja is David, Javi’s self-proclaimed only friend, who starts to “fade out” when he runs low on medication while hosting his buddy at a remote country retreat, amid a looming snowstorm, where he has brought him to be looked after... “with love.”

A horror story with an undercurrent of simmering violence, shot through with dark humour, the film feels like an homage to the fantastical B-movies that packed out cinemas in Spain in the 1970s — Paul Naschy being their most prolific champion. The plot is almost entirely carried by the two leads, joined only by a couple of supporting actresses and the odd cameo appearance.

In the course of a jaunt around the festival circuit, including screenings at Sitges and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, Amigo struck gold at Cinespaña in Toulouse and the Nocturna Madrid International Fantastic Film Festival. It’s not hard to see why: the film is a physical and psychological tour de force that locks two actors (the best of friends and occasional comedy partners in real life) into a delirious duel in single-set claustrophobia, at a time when there were no mobile phones to call for help.

Watching the film, it is obvious that the two leads had a riot of a time making this no-holds-barred contest, with Botet getting a chance to show off the skills acquired in roles like Niña Medeiros in the [REC [+see also:
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] saga, the eponymous spectral force in Mama [+see also:
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, an alien in The Queen of the Lizards [+see also:
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and countless other monstrous beings that turn out to be excellent training for a film with virtually no special effects or make-up wizardry, but all the brutality horror-fans can take.

At times, aspects of the plot bring to mind Misery, The Sea Inside, The Last Act, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (or even the animated series Heidi... if it had been directed by Michael Haneke) and, as signposted in its publicity campaign, Untouchable [+see also:
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]
’s sick and twisted cousin. Amigo — irony of ironies — keeps the audience on its toes with a gutsy concept that will be shocking or discomfiting for many, and a compelling portrait of insanity, dependence and the fine line between love and hate when trust turns to betrayal.

Amigo was produced by El Ojo Mecánico. The film went on general release in Spain on Friday and can also be found on HBO Romania.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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