Mario Casas shines in this scurrying morality tale of a one-night stand that spirals disastrously out of control.
Kind-natured barceloní Dani has put his life on hold to care for his dying father. Upon his passing his sister buys him a well-earned round-the-world trip as an acknowledgment of his palliative altruism.
Just as Dani prepares to activate his ticket he runs into the enigmatic Mila. He pays her burger joint bill and unleashes an unstable force of nature that will not only derail his travel plans but the trajectory of his entire existence.
Tightly plotted, shot, and edited David Victori‘s compression chamber thriller exploits its superb cast and creative focus for maximum intensity. It may well require a few heavy doses of belief suspension, particularly in one character’s astonishingly self-damaging decision, but it is so meticulously crafted you won’t care.
The film excels in two notable areas vital to both its genre credentials and high entertainment levels.
Firstly, it builds a formidable stockpile of audience empathy and investment with its central character. There is a creatively Machiavellian grace in play here that makes it a breathless blast to drop into the desolate abyss of the human condition alongside him. Mario Casas‘ award-winning lead performance is, of course, fundamental, however, it’s the incisive screenplay and superb supporting cast that lay the rock-solid foundations for his powerhouse performance.
Secondly, it retains its sharp focus almost entirely from Dani’s beleaguered perspective. We shadow him through every twist and turn, experiencing the escalation of his dark predicament firsthand. Rubbernecking the chain of events in near real-time we are encouraged to back seat drive his thought processes and actions through our own moral lens and survival instincts.
This symbiotic pairing of cinematic devices hits a sweet spot of jeopardy and sympathy that will keep you enthralled for the entire runtime.
Somewhat reminiscent of the water cooler cinema of the 1980’s, when moral conundrums were the midwives of high concept potboilers, this movie may contain traces of nostalgia for some. That being said, Cross The Line is a much more claustrophobic and angry animal than say Indecent Proposal or Fatal Attraction. If anything, the film shares more DNA with Martin Scorsese’s After Hours albeit with a much murkier and violent modus operandi.
Cross The Line has clear affinities with Neo-noir, a term with more grey areas than its name suggests, but circumnavigates clichés by way of some outlandish twists and fresh ideas. The urban setting, brooding menace, cinematography, and ethical smudging are all consistent with the Neo-noir blueprint. However, rather than feeling cherry-picked for cinematic kudos, they act as a stylistic conduit for the keynote themes of internal moral decay and circumstantial persecution.
Every element of Victori‘s restless potpourri of paranoia, from the lensing to the music and soundscape is designed to reflect the inner turmoil of Dani as he wrestles with his undeserved clusterfuck. He is a director that aims to construct movie journeys that feel as if they have “kidnapped you mentally and emotionally”. In that sense, he has certainly succeeded with Cross The Line. You do come away with a residual sense of having been somewhat abused yourself.
As a warning against ill-advised sexual liaisons, it’s a veritable public sermon on the importance of acknowledging blatant red flags. As a simmering thriller picture, it is an immersively dynamic charge into the crossfire of damaged individuals.
Moral Dilemma Horror/ Thriller| Spain| 2020 |Cert. 18| 1h 32 mins | Grimmfest UK Premiere | FILMAX | Dir. David Victori| With: Mario Casas, Elisabeth Larena, Milena Smit