Binge-r #151: Money Heist + The Boys
MONEY HEIST S1
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All 13 episodes now streaming, plus S2 and S3
If you have a Netflix account chances you’ve probably been the recipient of repeated recommendations for this stylised Spanish crime thriller. Having acquired it from Spanish television in 2017 and re-edited it for international consumption, Money Heist – the plainest thing about the show being the generic English title plastered onto La Casa de Papel – is now the most watched non-English language show on the streaming service. It’s not hard to see why: creator Alex Pina has put together a high concept page-turner, where an intricate plan to take over the Royal Mint of Spain and its printing presses is the starting point for accelerated plot twists, sudden swerves into melodrama, and flashbacks that burrow back into the central narrative and set it rattling off into new directions.
The cinematic influences are readily apparent: from Ocean’s Eleven, The Usual Suspects, and (especially) Spike Lee’s Inside Man all the way back to Rififi. Yes, there’s a shot of the disparate crew assembled for the job walking towards the camera in slow motion in the very first episode, but the visuals always come with a panache that’s more than happy to be pop-art appealing. Central to this swagger is Ursula Corbero’s Tokyo (the thieves all have geographic codenames), the story’s narrator, a criminal carrying guns and guilt recruited by the “very smart ghost” that is the robbery’s mastermind, The Professor (Alvaro Morte). She soon has an equivalent outside in Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituno), the police inspector tasked with running negotiations when the robbery becomes a siege, as well as fending off official interference.
These two women help offset a ready strain of Latin machismo, but if you don’t want to read too much into Money Heist the series is more than happy to envelope you in the perpetually unfolding plot, which has the neat touch of foreshadowing the next crisis for the gang even as it cunningly springs a surprise development; there are a great many gears turning at once here. The show is an easy watch, with one episode leading into another, but it’s very good at dividing your loyalties between those on either side of the law so that you’re invested in rival motives. It’s an entertaining diversion although one aspect still falls short: even after Netflix re-recorded the originally workmanlike English language dubbing, the subtitles are still the best way to enjoy Money Heist.
THE BOYS S1 (Amazon Prime Video, eight episodes): In this gory, scabrous contemporary satire superheroes are real, which means that they’re deeply flawed as people, corrupted as an organisation, and suborned by corporate overseers. Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) realises this when the lightning fast A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) obliterates his girlfriend by running through her, and then flees the scene because he’s under the influence. That brings the deeply traumatised retail clerk into the orbit of Billy Butcher (Karl Urban, with a shameless English accent), a spook turned anti-“supe” vigilante intent on destroying New York’s celebrated superhero guardians, The Seven, and the multinational, Vought International, that hires them out like star athletes and markets them like movie stars, as new recruit Starlight (Erin Moriarty) soon learns. Adapted from a comic book written by Garth Ennis (Preacher), Eric Kripke’s series is an increasingly effective mix of 18+ exploitation movie excess and sharpened cultural commentary – the deaths are riotously absurd, but the worship of the publicist-protected superheroes even as they’re moving from fighting crime to waging war feels very much of the moment.
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
New on Netflix: Otherhood (2019, 100 minutes) mostly underuses a first-rate cast – Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, and Felicity Huffman – who play suburban mothers parachuting in on their distant 20something sons for gags and reconciliation; Bong Joon-ho’s thrilling Snowpiercer (2013, 126 minutes) is an uprising action thriller from the director of Parasite set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity’s inequality is compressed onto a single train.
New on SBS on Demand: Before it was a hit Broadway musical, The Band’s Visit (2007, 87 minutes) was a bittersweet Israeli drama about an Egyptian police band stranded in an Israeli town and the connection between a stern visiting musician and an unflinching local women; Jim Jarmusch remade the prison break drama to his own idiosyncratic rhythms with Down By Law (1986, 107 minutes), where Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni bicker and flee in glorious black and white cinematography from the great Robby Müller.
New on Stan: The unflinching corruption of Romanian society remains the defining theme of Cristian Mungiu’s movies, and in Graduation (2016, 128 minutes) a father’s efforts to help his traumatised daughter reveal an astringent moral drama; David O. Russell updates the misfit romance for the 21st century as Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper find scrappy mutual acceptance in Silver Linings Playbook (2012, 123 minutes).
>> Want BINGE-R sent to your inbox? Click here for the weekly e-mail.