Running Time: 113 minutes
UK Certificate: 18
Daniel Monzón’s Cell 211 is a twisty turny Spanish prison thriller that’s crawled it’s way across the world and landed on DVD at last. Caught up in the middle of a violent prison riot is newbie guard Juan Oliver (Ammann) who’s accidentally knocked out and trapped in a prison cell when it all kicks off. Despite looking like he’s just come out of Gap and seeming about as threatening as a Sesame Street character, he manages to pass himself off as a murderer and tries to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, a team of fairly incompetent negotiators are trying to end the violence and get their man out.
Alberto Ammann is excellent as the trapped prison guard as he shows the right balance of faux bravado and vulnerability but he’s still overshadowed by the powerhouse performance of Luis Tosar who is that scarily charismatic I’d follow him into the hell of a Boxing Day sale in Primark armed with only a carrier bag and some lose change. There’s a little bit of overkill in glorifying some of the crims whilst tarring the prison guards but overall the old school Resines (Utrilla) and caring underling Ernesto (Morón) stand out as memorable and polarising.
Cell 211 is a bit contrived sometimes as some unrealistic events happen to get the set pieces in place and it’s easy to see where it’s going but that isn’t to say that Monzón doesn’t make it a gripping, authentic-feeling journey that keeps never lets up from start to finish. There’s plenty to recommend as the rioting and trashed prison look great, the range of character types is impressive and their interaction realistic and engaging. This is a high class action-based prison movie with just a few flaws that need to be ironed out.
It's Got: A good mix of characters, interesting story, excellent acting
It Needs: Few less contrived bits and less glorification of the prisoners
DVD Extras A Making Of and interview with the Director - could be worse for a fairly new international film DVD Extras Rating: 4/10
A gripping prison drama with a slew of twists from Spain that has it’s flaws but remains well worth a watch nonetheless.