Judge Joel Pearce likes his action thrillers twisty, complex, and non-lame. (Dialogue in Spanish is, of course, optional.) Two out of three ain't bad.
Santos Guijuelo: "Tell me, who are you?"
I expected Box 507 to be the kind of thriller with lots of twists, turns and surprises. I was a bit disappointed when I realized that it was going to be more straightforward than that, but I think it was a better stylistic choice. It is an entertaining but inconsequential action thriller, which has now been released on DVD as part of TLA Releasing's International Film Festival series.
Facts of the Case
Seven years after the seemingly accidental death of his daughter, bank manager Modesto Pardo (Antonio Resines) must face the possibility of another tragic loss when his wife is kidnapped by a group of thieves that rob his bank. Things change, however, when he stumbles across some documents in one of the safety deposit boxes that suggest his daughter's death may not have been an accident. His investigation leads him towards a several other groups, but he does not realize the trouble he is stirring up.
These documents are also important to Raphael Mazas (José Coronado), a corrupt ex-police chief whose life depends on their being hidden. Soon, all parties involved are searching for each other, leading up to inevitably bloody encounters.
At first, I really thought that Box 507 was going to suck. The style of the whole film is a bit disjointed, as though the cinematographer tried too hard to make it cool. The opening with the daughter was disappointing, and the kidnapping would have fit better into a comedy than a thriller. It took me a long time to feel any sympathy for Modesto, who seems too stiff and cold.
Fortunately, things improve quickly once the kidnapping is over. We are quickly introduced to several other groups who are interested in the documents, and who are much more dangerous and volatile than Modesto. The tangled web of characters is complex enough that it does a good job of covering up the weaknesses in each of the plot lines, and the pace picks up significantly as the various groups start to collide. Raphael has a very different investigation approach than Modesto (involving a shotgun, primarily), which adds another layer of complexity to the proceedings.
Things do get slightly weaker towards the end, as Modesto proves to be far smarter against his various foes than I would have ever expected. It's impossible to believe that he could ever get away with what he accomplishes, especially when pitted against several large corporations and the mafia. The film seems completely unaware of the irony that Modesto is starting the same kind of mess that began the whole situation in the first place. Revenge is an ugly business, and I did not feel as satisfied as Modesto with the way things turned out.
On a whole, the acting is good. Antonio Resines's performance consistently improves through the film, as Modesto starts to take control over his own situation. Coronado as Raphael is also good, seeming at first like a common thug, but becoming more frightening as time starts to run out for him. Less impressive are the kidnappers and mob characters, who are never more than basic stereotypes. If these characters had been more interesting and distinct, it would have vastly improved the film overall.
The technical quality of the disc leaves much to be desired. The video transfer is non-anamorphic, which is a problem. The detail is weak, lacking the sharpness that a film this recent should have. The colors are generally accurate, but the reds and yellows are sometimes too vivid. The problem is obviously with the transfer, not with the source material. The subtitles are burnt in, but they are sharp and readable. The sound transfer is a basic stereo track, which does an acceptable job of capturing the voices and the music. I would have liked to hear a more atmospheric track, but I suppose this one does the job. Evidently, TLA Releasing didn't see fit to include any special features on this disc.
I can't really recommend this disc for purchase. Like the other titles I have seen in the International Film Festival series, Box 507 is a promising but ultimately disappointing film given a second-rate digital treatment. Unlike the others, though, I would recommend this as a rental for fans of the genre. It really isn't anything special, but it's still vastly superior to many of the lame American thrillers that we are subjected to year after year. If only the beginning and end had been stronger, and some of the minor characters had been fleshed out better, it would have been great.
It's not a masterpiece of contemporary cinema, but Box 507 is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a couple hours of your life. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
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