The Bar (FrightFest 2017)


The BarStarring Blanca Suárez, Mario Casas, Carmen Machi, Secun de la Rosa, Jaime Ordóñez

Directed by Álex de la Iglesia

Spanish cult wunderkind Álex de la Iglesia returns to the screen with The Bar, in which the patrons of a cosy Madrid bar find themselves trapped inside when an unseen sniper begins gunning down anyone who leaves.

Believing this to be a terrorist attack at first, the varied characters inside the bar soon discover that something else is afoot – a man who earlier ran straight to the bathroom is infected with a deadly virus, and it seems the authorities are willing to take any course of action necessary to see that it doesn’t make its way into the outside world.

As you would expect with a setup such as this, it doesn’t take too long for de la Iglesia’s characters to begin the customary bickering and distrustful accusations – yet whilst the story unfolds much as you’d expect in an ensemble piece such as this, the breadth of personalities are, thankfully, diverse enough to keep things interesting.

Vagrant Israel (Ordóñez) is a standout addition – initially likeable despite his biblical rhetoric and lack of care for the expected behaviour of polite society, he eventually devolves into one of the more brutish antagonists of the group. Mario Casas is excellent as hipster Nacho, who straight away begins to attach himself as a self-appointed protector to the beautiful Elena (Suárez) – a situation that often leads to some cringe-worthy and laughter-inducing moments.

But while The Bar is indeed very, very funny (a scene involving gallons of cooking oil and much frustrated yelling is a gut-busting standout), it isn’t all laughs all the time, and it’s when switching gears into more serious thriller territory in the final stretch that de la Iglesia begins to drop the ball.

When shifting the action to a different, murkier location for the final confrontation, The Bar’s pacing falters, slowing to an almost disinterested crawl for much of the remaining runtime. The method employed to lessen the burden of so many characters also carries with it some staggeringly lazy leaps in logic – unless, of course, de la Iglesia is attempting to take a sly dig at the competence of the Spanish authorities. Perhaps he is, but it isn’t signalled.

It all leads to a disappointing send-off for what, in the first half, is a compelling and enjoyable ensemble flick. Initially packed with sparkling performances, astute writing, and a quick-fire wit that demands appreciation, it’s sad to say that The Bar doesn’t manage to keep up with its promise. It’s a good watch, no doubt, for its charged character interplay, but ultimately lacks the inventiveness and verve one can usually expect from its lauded director.

  • Film
User Rating 3.15 (13 votes)


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