Witching And Bitching


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"A messy but highly enjoyable romp that takes a sideswipe at modern Spanish attitudes and the country's economic turmoil."

Álex de la Iglesia has never been one for understatement and in his latest he takes gleeful pleasure in seeing just how far he can notch up the madness. How far? Answer: a lot higher than you might think. In the past, this sense that anything is possible has sometimes compromised the tone (The Last Circus) or tipped him in to a large vat of bad taste (Perdita Durango) but here, by keeping the emphasis on comic book style violence and humour, he manages to pull off a messy but highly enjoyable romp that takes a sideswipe at modern Spanish attitudes and the country's economic turmoil.

The bitching occupies centre stage not courtesy of women - more on whom later - but in the form of Jose (Hugo Silva) the sort of divorcee who makes you wonder how he ever got someone to marry him in the first place. He loves his young son Sergio (Gabriel Delgado) but as he only gets custody of him on alternate weekends and Tuesdays, it seems logical to take him along on a pawn shop hold-up. In a mark of the madness to come, Jose and his gaggle of down-on-their-bank-balances accomplices show up to the event dressed in miscellaneous fancy dress. Jose - never one to resist playing the martyr - comes as Jesus, his body silver from spray paint, while his partner in crime Tony (Mario Casas) - beauty, no brain - arrives as a toy soldier, resplendent in green.

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It doesn't take Inspector Morse to see these guys can barely hold up their pants, let alone a shop and before long pandemonium reigns and as various characters are entertaingly dispatched - the strafing on SpongeBob is a particular highlight - Jose, his boy and Tony escape in a cab driven by Manuel (Jaime Ordonez). They grouse their way through the first portion of the roadtrip, lamenting their lot at the hands of women - their mysogyny saying much more about the state of their manhood than anything Jose's wife Sylvia (Macarena Gomez) could probably muster. Finally, they find themselves in the Basque town of Zugarramurdi - famous in Spain for witch trials in the 17th Century - where the women (Terele Pavez, Carmen Maura and Carolina Bang) can literally cast a spell on you. And now they really have something to be scared about...

From this point on, the action pretty much takes control as the witches reveal a plan to reclaim the earth from men, but as the frantic and farcical events move from the witches' Addams-family style castle to a warren of fabulously gothic caves, Iglesia keeps us clinging to the ride thanks to the well-established relationships between the characters, even throwing in some impossible romance for good measure. Everything is absurdly exaggerated, including a deliciously over-the-top monster. but no matter how chaotic the action becomes, the camerawork keeps you with the characters, so that the madness never slips into confusion. This may be excess all areas, including the runtime, but as Jose would tell you, austerity is overrated.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2014
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When three men go on the run after a heist goes bad, they run into a coven of witches.
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Director: Álex de la Iglesia

Writer: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia

Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Carmen Maura, Gabriel Delgado, Carlos Areces, Carolina Bang, Macarena Gómez, Pepón Nieto, Secun de la Rosa, María Barranco, Jaime Ordóñez, Enrique Villén, Terele Pávez, Beatriz Urzáiz, Julián Valcárcel-Carbonell

Year: 2013

Runtime: 112 minutes

Country: Spain, France

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If you like this, try:

Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Last Circus