Spanish actor Raul Arevalo’s (“Marshland”) directorial debut The Fury of a Patient Man is a lean revenge thriller. The familiarity of its story line could be traced back to 70s thrillers. It shows masculinity at its worse, as a seemingly calm person loses himself to fiery temper, provoked by an injustice act. Yet, Raul Arevalo’s movie has a distinct quality attached to it. Shot in 16mm, the film uses skillful, urgent hand-held camera movements which passes off the documentary feel as well as a simmering intensity waiting to blow up. Shot amidst run-down, vibrant spaces of working class neighborhood (in Madrid outskirts) with complicated characters, the narrative doesn’t follow a strict genre model. This quality is what makes The Fury of a Patient Man a far better film than what it plot-line suggests. It seems to be about real people, grounded to real place that’s as arid as the landscape of old west (the film’s Spanish title ‘Tarde para la ira’ translates to ‘little late for anger’ which slightly has a vengeance-laden Western movie feel to it).
The film opens with a shaky staging that takes place inside a car. The get-away car driver Curro (Luis Callejo) is waiting for the masked men robbing a jewelry store. Chaos ensues. Three of the robbers escape, while a resulting police pursuit brings down Curro. In the next few minutes, we witness four brief chapters titled ‘Bar’, ‘Family, ‘Ana’, and ‘Curro’. These are more like introductory passages to divulge the mysterious presence of stoic stranger Jose (Antonio de la Torre). When we first see Jose he speedily walks into crowded bar run by newfound neighborhood friend Juanjo (Raul Jimenez). Jose’s brief, side-ward glances at Juanjo’s sister Ana (Ruth Diaz) may be due to his unspoken affection or it may have far sinister reason. He attends Juanjo’s family parties and probes Ana's feelings in chat-rooms, questioning about the possible domestic abuse.
|Jose (Luis Callejo) carefully carries out his revenge plot by getting closer to lonely Ana (Ruth Diaz)|
Ana turns out to be hardheaded Curro’s wife. During the visit to prison, the couple were given privacy to have sex and one such visit has left Ana with a small boy. It’s been eight year since Curro’s imprisonment (for the jewellery store robbery) and he is about to get released in a week or so. Jose after his visits to the bar spends time at a private hospital, sitting close to a comatose old man’s bed. Circumstances make the emotionally bruised Ana and Jose to act upon their carnal desires. When Jose plays the CCTV footage of a store robbery everything becomes clear. In the footage, an old man and a woman is attacked by the masked robbers. The young woman is brutally beaten, reducing her face to a bloody pulp. Soon after Curro’s release, Jose decides to use Ana as leverage to fulfill his call for the bloody revenge.
Director Raul Arevalo and his co-writer David Pulido recently won Spanish film academy’s Goya Awards (for best directorial debut and screenplay). The duo certainly deserves such awards for the way they deploy the simple plot with great confidence. Arevalo’s intuitive director perfectly balances elements of restraint drama and violent stylistic excess. Although the dialogues at times seem banal, Arevalo and cinematographer Arnau Valls' tight frames conveys the full range of impulsive, hysterical moments. In the tense scene that unfolds in the basement of a gym, rage seethes in the visuals waiting to snap at any moment. May be its too early in Arevalo’s directorial career to throw in the legendary names of Sam Peckinpah or John Ford. But the director who confides that he didn’t professionally study about film-making, is skillful enough to know how to study rugged faces or the grimy landscapes. The build-up to the violence and the ugliness of it very much reminds us of Peckinpah’s masterful staging (in The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, etc). While the urban landscapes of Madrid alternately instills liveliness and claustrophobia, the frames of vast rural landscapes in the second-half looks astounding. Arevalo goes for some well-judged long shots, capturing both the gorgeous as well as wretched nature of the area, which kind of reflects in the behavior of characters.
|Curro confronts Jose, unaware of the brutality and violence he's about to witness|
David Pulido and Arevalo superbly reverse the character nature of Curro and Jose in the movie’s second half. Curro is more terrified; whereas Jose remains casually brutal (de la Torre is terrific as the friendly guy whose wrath gradually rises to the surface). Their pursuit for the main culprits results to high-wire sequences. We expect the criminals to be doing business in a dark den with tattoos covering their body. However, these scenes unfold under bright sunlight with these guys looking as simple as ourselves. This makes the ensuing violence a little hard to digest and even halts us from fully taking Jose’s side. ‘Revenge’ as they say ‘is a dish best served cold’. The narrative stands as a fine contradiction to this statement. The biggest strength of the script is that it doesn’t judge anybody. Arevalo is more interested in studying one person, driven by momentary impulse and another person, driven by festering hate and rage. They are not brought under a strict moral framework. There’s not a single direct frame that shows murder taking place on-screen. Yet, similar to the characters we aren’t able to shake off the stifling presence of violence in the atmosphere. Like all the best revenge dramas, this film too dwells on the bigger void after exacting vengeance. For fans of thriller genre, the final revelation may seem to be predictable twist. But I feel that there are no twists in this tale. It’s just one man’s inevitable, destructive journey towards the hell.
Debutant film-maker Raul Arevalo’s The Fury of a Patient Man (92 minutes) takes a conventional story-line and through resourceful direction restructures it into a gritty and engaging thriller. It’s surprisingly rooted deep into the intense atmosphere and characters.
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