I’ve developed a passion for Spanish police procedurals. Or rather, Netflix’s “What you should try next” algorithm has. And I’m OK with that, as it’s a genre the Spanish cinema has a good handle on, and these “Around the World with Netflix” mystery-thrillers have the novelty of striking, under-filmed Spanish settings as a bonus.
“Infiesto” is a solid entry in the genre, a serial kidnapper tale set against the backdrop of the beginning of lockdown as the COVID pandemic broke out. One striking characteristic of the film is how its two leading characters, cops on the case, are damned reluctant to give in to early 2020 masking protocols.
A boss hands them masks, says “Use these,” which they won’t put on in most situations. One cop has a spouse who catches the virus and is hauled off to the hospital. She still won’t mask up, or obey the physician’s orders that she self-isolate.
It calls attention to itself, and yet writer-director Patxi Amezcua doesn’t do anything with this bit of supposed foreshadowing. That’s a failing of his film, a ticking clock thriller of limited urgency set over 10 days at the beginning of Spain’s battle against the pandemic.
“Infiesto” takes its title from the Asturian town near where federal cops Garcia (Isak Férriz of Netflix’s “Feria: The Darkest Light” series) and Castro (Iria Del Río of “Visitor”) are summoned. A kidnapping victim has escaped her captor and showsnup in a town square, her rope bindings still dangling from her emaciated wrists.
With a pandemic raging and no one yet-knowing how to stop it or save victims of it, they find themselves elbow-deep in a crime that leads to other crimes, suspects who lead to other suspects and the fear that there may be living victims still in their clutches.
It “feels like the end of the world,” the inspectors say to each other, and others suggest this as well. But the first real suspect they confront adds a chilling proviso to that worry.
“This is just the beginning (in Spanish or dubbed into English)!”
Amezcua (“Gun City”) does a decent job of doling out his story’s clues and hiding its general direction just long enough to make a difference. His script has the usual personal issues added to our police inspectors’ burdens, all of them with a pandemic twist — an elderly relative in isolation, separation from children of divorce, a sick spouse.
You can almost predict just when one of our law enforcement officers will snap and turn to extra-legal means in a rush to save possible surviving kidnapping victims and catch those responsible.
The villains are colorful but generic in their MO and motivation. The confrontations are tense and the shootouts handled with harrowing professionalism by our well-matched leads.
And the novel setting of it all, dreary, wintry northwestern Spain, with abandoned factories and mines and rain-drenched gone-to-seed farms, gives it a timeworn yet unfamiliar look, just the sort of place where it’s easy to wonder if the world’s about to end.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity
Cast: Isak Férriz, Iria Del Río
Credits: Scripted and directed by Patxi Amezcua. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:36