This moody Spanish crime story would seem ripe for a big-budget US remake – if it didn’t already exist under the name ‘True Detective’. That’s not just lazy journalistic shorthand. The comparisons really are striking (with no implication of plagiarism: the film and the TV series were first shown almost concurrently last year).
Javier Gutiérrez and Raúl Arévalo play mismatched cops – one married and frustrated, the other single and brooding – investigating the murders of young women in a remote, backward corner of 1980s Spain. The location photography is crisp and vibrant, the performances confident, the dialogue rich, the tone moody and gripping – in fact, ‘Marshland’ might even score over its HBO rival by nailing the finale.
Steeped in post-Franco angst and simmering with small-town unease, ‘Marshland’ is unpretentious, compelling and smart. Aware that we’ve seen this story before – even before ‘True Detective’; the buddy-cops-hunt-a-rural-killer plotline isn’t exactly new – director Alberto Rodríguez crams the film with red herrings, dead leads, oddball supporting characters and murky political subtext. He leads us out into the wilds and back again, throwing in the odd fist fight and car chase to keep things ticking along. The result is a taut, visually sumptuous and hugely entertaining thriller.