Patxi Amézcua’s pulp Spanish thriller.
Following a fairly standard genre schema, 25 Carat presents as a compact crime caper with the expected handful of twists, and more than a splash of romance. The disparate storylines of 25 Carat’s twin protagonists—independent, moody young scam artist Kay (Aida Folch) and world weary criminal enforcer cum semi-present father of one Abel (Francesc Garrido)—overlap when Abel (coincidentally nearby) makes a snap decision to save hard-pressed young beauty Kay from the cop about to arrest her in a scam gone wrong. Their natural chemistry leads (later) to a night of passion, which in turn leads to an opportunity for them to help each other find solutions to some major problems, if only they can take the step to trust—something neither is naturally or vocationally inclined towards doing.
Despite being the quiet, brutally efficient, hard-boiled type, Abel is also a solo dad, even if, more often than either is comfortable with, he palms his son off to his retiree parents—an interesting character trait for this kind of film, one which lends Abel a depth which might otherwise be lacking. Kay’s character on the other hand is more archetypal, replete with a messed up childhood and the loving but ultimately selfish father figure whom she ends up having to carry—a persona replcated in any number of caper films or television shows, such as the Sarah Walker character from spy-dramedy Chuck. Supporting players are given limited room to move with Manuel Morón turning in a creditably weasel-like performance as Kay’s father Sebas, and Joan Massotkleiner as crooked cop-on-the-take Garro reminiscent in look and feel of Dean Norris’s Hank Schrader character from smart drug-drama Breaking Bad.
Set in Barcelona, director Patxi Amézcua and crew capture a commendably anti-postcard picture of the famously beautiful city, adding a layer of grit that works well alongside the rugged storylines and less refined shooting style. A reasonably linear narrative and straightforward mise-en-scène along with predictable shifts in tension all combine to give 25 Carat a slightly dated feel, as if the film is attempting to attain the stature of a model thriller/caper, only one from several decades ago! (Such as the late Fabián Bielinsky’s exceptional Nine Queens (2000).) The soundtrack has a particularly late-90s feel with its slightly overdriven dance vibe. At one stage a piece of music even put me in mind of a series of those little distinctive popping bass interludes strung together on Seinfeld.
25 Carat’s relative simplicity is by no means a negative; the film’s primary merit is in the interplay between the two leads and how the other characters and plot reacts to and with them. A good film, if not a great one, this Spanish crime thriller makes for easy, enjoyable viewing.